STATE TIMES NEWS
New Delhi: Lok Sabha on Tuesday witnessed a series of brief adjournments amid uproar created by opposition members over various issues, including the Pegasus spying controversy and the three contentious agri laws.While no legislative business could be transacted, the House for the first time in the Monsoon session took up “matters of urgent public importance” wherein MPs raise issues relating to their respective constituencies.Soon after the House assembled for the day, Speaker Om Birla repeatedly urged the protesting members to go back to their seats.
New Delhi: With Parliament proceedings stalled for the sixth day over the Pegasus spying row and farmers’ issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to have asked BJP MPs on Tuesday to expose the opposition parties as the government is ready for discussions on all issues but they are not letting the two Houses to function.According to BJP sources, Prime Minister Modi said this to his party MPs in his address to the BJP parliamentary party meeting. The standoff between the government and the opposition in Parliament has showed no signs of easing after it erupted on the opening day of the Monsoon session on July 19.West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the prime minister should convene an all-party meet on the Pegasus row and decide on a Supreme Court-led probe even as seven opposition parties sought President Ram Nath Kovind’s intervention to direct the government to discuss the phone-hacking scandal and farmers’ issues in Parliament.Veteran journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, meanwhile, moved the Supreme Court seeking an independent probe by its sitting or retired judge into reports of government agencies using Israeli spyware Pegasus to allegedly snoop on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes.The petition seeks investigation into the hacking of phones using the Pegasus spyware, saying it represented an attempt by agencies and organisations to muzzle and chill the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India.It also sought a direction to the Centre to disclose if the government or any of its agencies obtained licence for Pegasus spyware and used it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner.According to the latest list of names released by news portal The Wire, the potential targets of Pegasus included former chairman of Jet Airways Naresh Goyal, SpiceJet managing director Ajay Singh and the Essar Group’s Prashant Ruia.The leaked list that has been analysed by media partners of the Pegasus Project consortium reporting on the issue also includes numbers belonging to Rajeshwar Singh, a senior Enforcement Directorate officer, and V K Jain, a former IAS officer who worked as a personal assistant to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.In addition, the leaked records contain details of the numbers of at least one official each from the PMO and NITI Aayog, The Wire said.Protests by unrelenting opposition members over the Pegasus row and the three contentious farm laws again disrupted proceedings in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha leading to multiple adjournments as they demanded discussions on these issues.After a meeting with the prime minister, Chief Minister Banerjee refused to say whether the snooping row came up for discussions but told reporters that he should convene an all-party meet on the issue and decide on a Supreme Court-led probe.West Bengal on Monday set up a two-member Commission of Inquiry to probe allegations of snooping on politicians, officials and journalists in the first move by a state seen as an attempt by Chief Minister Banerjee to put pressure on the Centre over the Pegasus scandal for wider investigations.MPs belonging to seven opposition parties wrote to President Kovind seeking his intervention to direct the government to discuss farmers’ issues and Pegasus spyware report in the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament. The session concludes on August 13.The BSP, RLP, SAD, National Conference, CPI and the CPI(M) besides the NCP are the signatories to the letter. The main opposition party Congress is not among the signatories.“We MPs urge you to intervene personally and direct the government to discuss both issues during the ongoing parliament session in the spirit of a healthy democracy,” the parties said in their letter to the President.The MPs also sought an appointment with the President to apprise him of “two disturbing developments” including the complete stonewalling of demands of the peasantry to repeal the three agricultural laws as well as use of Pegasus to tape telephones of politicians, journalists and activists.Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is the Chairman of the Parliamentary committee on Information Technology(IT), said the panel will question government officials on allegations linked to the Pegasus spyware. Tharoor said the spyware row is the “most important issue” for many members.The 32-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, for which the listed agenda is ”Citizens’ data security and privacy”, according to a notification issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.The panel, which has maximum members from the ruling BJP, has summoned officials from the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs.“The subject of Citizens Data Privacy and Security is an approved agenda item of the committee and it was under this item that we had earlier discussed the Pegasus issue in November-December last year. So it’s a continuing issue.“There would be other questions as well, as this is not necessarily the only issue. But, for many of us in the committee this is perhaps the most important issue,” Tharoor told PTI ahead of the panel’s meeting.Another senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the government would brazen out the allegations of snooping until it is known who the “Indian client” of Israeli firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was and that name would be revealed soon.The former home minister said that based on investigations by an international group of journalists, The Wire has reported that there was “an Indian client of the NSO Group”.Last week, an international media consortium reported that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including those of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders besides scores of business persons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through the Pegasus spyware.The government has denied all Opposition allegations in the matter.“Who was the ‘Indian client’? Was it the government of India? Was it an agency of the government? Was it a private entity?” Chidambaram asked in a tweet.“I am certain the client’s name will be revealed soon. Until then, I suppose the government will brazen out the allegations of snooping,” he said.
“Do not compete with each other in sloganeering. Compete with each other to raise people’s issues,” he said.Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar took a swipe at the protesting opposition members and said if they are concerned about farmers, they should allow the proceedings of the House to continue.He made the remarks while replying to a supplementary query related to an insurance scheme for farmers during the Question Hour as the opposition members continued with their sloganeering on various issues, including the Pegasus spying controversy and the agriculture laws against which a section of farmers has been protesting on Delhi’s borders for eight months.“There are around 15 questions related to farmers. If the opposition members are really concerned about farmers, they should listen to what the government has to say,” Tomar said.“Disruptions are lowering the decorum of the House,” he said.After being adjourned nine times, the lower house reassembled at 4.30 PM and Rajendra Agrawal, who was in the Chair, once again took up one matter of urgent public importance.However, the opposition members again trooped into the Well shouting slogans and carrying banners.The members of the Congress, CPI, CPI(M) and the TMC were protesting over the Pegasus snooping row, while the BSP, SP and the Shiromani Akali Dal were raising slogans against the Centre’s three farm laws.Agrawal urged the protesting members to go back to their respective seats.“We are requesting you to please cooperate and participate in the proceedings,” he said.With opposition members not willing to relent, Agrawal adjourned the House for the day.Earlier, Speaker Om Birla led the members in paying tributes to Anerood Jugnauth, former president of Mauritius, and Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda, the first president of Zambia.The opposition’s protests started soon after the proceedings began at 11 AM.Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said by disrupting the proceedings, the opposition is not allowing the ministers to do their duty of replying to questions.As the protests continued, the House was adjourned for the first time till 11.45 AM.When the House met again, the protests continued, leading to another adjournment till 12 noon.As Lok Sabha reassembled at 12 noon, Agrawal, who was chairing the proceedings, asked the protesting members to discuss their issues and said the government is ready to answer their questions.As the protests continued, Agrawal adjourned the House till 12.30 PM and later till 2 PM.Subsequently, Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was in the Chair, had to repeatedly adjourn the House due to continuing protests.
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