Author: Vedapratap Vaidik
The revelation of government espionage is happening today, perhaps never before in independent India. By the way, there is no such government in the world, which does not run the entire system of espionage, but in a democracy, espionage also runs according to some laws and regulations. He has to follow certain limits. This time such a case of government espionage has arisen in our Parliament, due to which the difficulty of the government has increased.
There is a software from Israel’s company called NSO, Pegasus. The beauty of this software is that it records the conversations, messages and pictures on one’s phone and computer and that person does not even notice it. It is being used by 60 organizations from 40 countries of the world. About 50 thousand people are spied by it. Opposition members in Parliament have alleged that the Pegasus list contains the names of 300 Indians. Among them are 40 journalists, two union ministers, three opposition leaders, a former judge, a former election commissioner and people from various other professions.
The aim is to stop terrorism
New names are appearing every day. NSO has claimed that it sells its software only to authentic governments so that they can keep a watch on terrorists, serious criminals, smugglers and foreign spies. In view of the massive espionage that has come to light in India, it is being said that the Pegasus purchased will cost around Rs 500 crore. Will any non-government organization spend so much money on this device?
The responsibility of answering these allegations from the Government of India came on the newly-appointed Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnav! Interestingly, the name of Vaishnav himself is also in the list who was allegedly being spied on. Vaishnav has bluntly said that this news of illegal espionage is baseless. The Indian government does not do any illegal act of espionage. But the Parliament and the people of the country would like to know under which law the Government of India does espionage? There are two such laws. One is the Indian Telegraphic Act of 1885 and the other is the Information Technology Act of 2000! Under both these laws, thousands of people’s phones have been tapped and letters have been read. In 2013, the Congress government had said that it had tapped 7500 to 9000 phones. All such espionage is done by our central and state governments ‘according to the law’.
What is this law? This law is only that the Home Secretary should start espionage against any person against whom there is any suspicion or about whom there is a hint from above. He has this arbitrary right. He doesn’t need to tell anyone or take anyone’s consent. Whether he has misused this right, there is no free and fair system to investigate this question. This work is entrusted to the cabinet secretary and two other bureaucrats. what will they do? They will do what the minister says. Whether the decisions of the bureaucrats are right or not should be decided by either a judge or a committee of MPs. Will the committee of MPs allow spying against a leader? If a leader is involved in terrorism, sedition or bloodshed, why will she not allow it to happen?
The real problem arises when governments use espionage for self interest, not national interest. Otherwise, what is the reason that the government targets journalists, opposition leaders, judges, industrialists and even its own ministers? In this case, the people who are being alleged to be spying, are they involved in anti-national activities? If so, why doesn’t the government itself reveal their names?
Spying is done against journalists so that the secret sources of their news can be known to the government. Journalism is the fourth pillar of democracy. If this pillar becomes hollow then the legislature and the judiciary will have no importance. The life of journalists and true leaders is like an open book. They had nothing to hide. Whatever they have to say or do, they do it openly with a bang. If they have any fault, then the government must tell. What is the fear of the government in revealing the names of the culprits? The reply given by Information Technology Minister Vaishnav when there was a ruckus in the Parliament, is nothing but a hoax. Why didn’t he tell whether the government used Pegasus or not?
bring out all the facts
It is true that no government can run without spying. All the governments of the world run their espionage system firmly. But if it gets exposed, then what happened to that detective system? The cover of this Pegasus has been uncovered, by the French organization ‘Forbidden Stories’ and Amnesty International. Many famous newspapers of the world are engaged in this revelation.
The attitude of the Government of India in the matter of this espionage should be blunt. Either she should reveal all the facts herself or apologize to those innocent people on whom she was spying knowingly or unknowingly. If she does not do so, it will be deemed that she is violating the constitutional provisions of privacy, confidentiality and freedom of expression.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.