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West Bengal government sets up first panel to probe the 'Pegasus' phone-hacking reports

This will be first formal inquiry into allegations that between 2017 and 2019 an Indian client of Israel's NSO Group used Pegasus to hack hundreds of phones of opposition leaders, journalists and government officials.

July 26, 2021 / 02:12 PM IST
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (Illustration: Moneycontrol)

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (Illustration: Moneycontrol)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on July 26 that her government has constituted a judicial inquiry commission to investigate allegations of snooping revealed by the 'Pegasus Project' media report.

This comes days after the name of her nephew and TMC member of parliament (MP), Abhishek Banerjee, appeared on a list of potential surveillance targets.

"We thought the Centre would form an inquiry commission or a court-monitored probe would be ordered to look into this phone-hacking incident. But the Centre is sitting idle... So we decided to form a ‘commission on inquiry’ to look into the matter," the CM said at a press conference

READ : Pegasus row: Congress demands probe by Joint Parliamentary Committee

The two-member panel will be headed by former Calcutta High court Chief Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya. Former Supreme Court judge Madan Bhimrao Lokur is its other member, news agency PTI reported.

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This will be the first formal inquiry into allegations that between 2017 and 2019 an Indian client of Israel's NSO Group used Pegasus to hack hundreds of phones of opposition leaders, journalists, and government officials.

"Names of people from West Bengal have figured on the Pegasus target list. The Centre is trying to snoop on everyone. The commission will find out details about this illegal hacking," the CM said

The decision to form a panel, with retired judges as its members, was taken at a special cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister.

Since July 18, the "Pegasus Project" has revealed that the numbers of opposition politicians including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two union ministers, TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists who were selected as potential targets of snooping.

The issue leads to a political storm and even rocked the proceedings of the ongoing Monsoon Session of the Parliament. The Centre has denied any role in snooping saying that there was no substance to the reports of spying.

Earlier in the day, an aide of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and an Enforcement Directorate officer Rajeshwar Singh were among potential targets on the leaked database of Israeli company NSO's Pegasus spyware, news website The Wire said in its latest report.
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