Seven Opposition parties on Tuesday urged President Ram Nath Kovind to direct the central government to discuss in Parliament the matters of the agriculture laws and alleged surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, ANI reported.
The parties sought an appointment with Kovind to speak to him on the two contentious topics and asked him intervene in order to “uphold the dignity of the Constitution of India and parliamentary rules and procedures”.
The Akali Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the National Conference, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India and the Rashtriya Lok Dal jointly wrote a letter to Kovind.
The letter was sent amid an impasse in the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament. On Tuesday evening, the Houses were adjourned till 11 am on Wednesday after the Opposition parties raised slogans demanding a discussion into allegations that the Pegasus spyware was used to spy on politicians, journalists and activists in India.
The government said it was ready to discuss anything except the Pegasus spyware allegations, while the Opposition insisted upon taking up the matter first, NDTV reported.
The deadlock may well continue on Wednesday as the Opposition parties have decided to move an adjournment motion on the alleged surveillance, Congress MP K Suresh told ANI. Opposition leaders of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha will hold a joint meeting at 10 am on Wednesday, Suresh said.
The spyware is licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group. The company insists that it licences its software only to “vetted governments” with good human-rights records and that Pegasus is intended to target criminals.
However, a leaked list featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens”, was accessed by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. The first reports on the list were published a day before the Monsoon Session of the Parliament began on July 19.
The list of potential targets in India features over 40 journalists, two Union ministers, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa and a former Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment. Industrialist Anil Ambani and former Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma are also among the potential targets.
Meanwhile, protests against the three agriculture laws, introduced last year, have also intensified as the farmer unions decided to conduct a kisan sansad, or farmers’ parliament, parallel to the proceedings of the Monsoon Session. Thousands of farmers have been camping outside Delhi since November, demanding that the central government repeal the three new laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies.