There is no proposal to ban the cybersecurity firm NSO Group Technologies, the manufacturer of the Pegasus spyware, the Centre told Parliament on Friday. There are allegations that the central government used Pegasus to spy on journalists, political leaders and human rights activists in the country.

Pegasus is a military-grade spyware that is sold only to vetted governments.

Samajwadi Party MPs Vishambhar Prasad Nishad and Sukhram Singh Yadav had also asked the government why the NSO Group and Candiru, another Israeli cyber-surveillance firm, had not been banned in India. Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar did not give an answer to this.

In a written reply, Chandrasekhar also denied any information on the United States blacklisting the Israeli firms.

Last month, the United States Commerce Department had added NSO Group and three other companies, including Candiru, to its trade blacklist. The decision meant that exports to the company from firms based in the United States would be restricted.

On November 23, technology firm Apple filed a lawsuit against the NSO group for allegedly targeting iPhone users.

The surveillance accusations involving Pegasus came to light in July through an investigative project involving Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories, Amnesty International and 17 media organisations from across the world, including Indian news website The Wire. They accessed database with phone numbers of potential targets of surveillance.

The possible targets in India included over 40 journalists, two Union ministers, former Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa, former Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra and the woman who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, among others.

Among global personalities, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, French President Emmanuel Macron and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa were the possible targets of surveillance using Pegasus hacking software.

On October 27, the Supreme Court of India appointed a three-member technical committee to investigate allegations that the Pegasus software was used to snoop on Indian citizens.