The Centre on Thursday told the Rajya Sabha that it did not indulge in “unauthorised interception” using the Pegasus spyware that targeted 121 Indians through vulnerabilities in messaging app WhatsApp. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad made the comment during a discussion on the WhatsApp surveillance controversy.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Bhopal Pragya Thakur denied she praised Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse the day before in the Lok Sabha, saying she had interrupted Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP A Raja’s speech during a debate to defend revolutionary Udham Singh. The comments have been expunged from the House records.
The Opposition created an uproar in Parliament against Thakur’s remarks, with All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi submitting a privilege motion against her. The Congress may file a censure motion.
Here are the day’s updates from Parliament:
7.26 pm: Hardeep Singh Puri has told Parliament that the government will later deal with 65 affluent unauthorised colonies in Delhi. “Had we taken up the issue of affluent colonies, you would have termed us as ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’,” News18 quotes the minister as saying.
7.22 pm: Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has told Parliament that Uttar Pradesh government has started discussions with the Centre to build an airport in Ayodhya, reports The Times of India.
7.18 pm: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has told the Rajya Sabha that the process to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council will require “long and patient effort”. “We are not lacking in patience, perseverance and aspiration,” ANI quotes him as saying. “We will get there one day. It is progressing day by day.”
7.13 pm: Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan demands extension in the railway line in Basirhat from Hasnabad to Samsernagar. “The proposal is important for the greater interest of tourism in that area and livelihood of thousands of people living there,” ANI quotes her as saying.
5.03 pm: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has tabled the first batch of supplementary demands for grants for the 2019-’20 financial year in both Houses, reports News18. According to her, the total cash outgo will be about Rs 19,000 crore. The government has sought Rs 8,820.62 crore as grants for the Union Territories Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
5 pm: The Rajya Sabha has approved the Chit Fund Amendment Bill, 2019, reports ANI. The Lok Sabha passed the bill last week. It will raise the maximum amount a chit fund can collect.
4.41 pm: Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has told the Rajya Sabha that “any violation of established procedure is actionable, and as of now, no unauthorised interception has been done”, reports The Indian Express. He was responding to a question raised by Congress leader Anand Sharma during a discussion on the WhatsApp surveillance controversy.
4.37 pm: Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri has moved the Delhi unauthorised colonies bill in the Lok Sabha, reports The Indian Express. According to the minister, the process of digitally mapping 1,931 unlicensed colonies will be completed by December 31.
4.31 pm: The Congress and other constituents of the United Progressive Alliance will move a censure motion against Pragya Thakur in the Lok Sabha, reports PTI.
2.47 pm: In Rajya Sabha, Congress MP Digvijaya Singh demands an inquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Committee into the WhatsApp security breach, says the matter is connected to fundamental rights and national security, ANI reports.
2.40 pm: The law minister reiterates that 121 Indians faced the security breach carried out using the Pegasus spyware developed by an Israeli company. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh questions the government’s role in the matter. “They should tell the House if people were spied upon,” The Indian Express quotes Singh as saying. “The government should tell us which journalists, activists were targeted in the breach. This is a violation of right of privacy.”
2.37 pm: Ravi Shankar Prasad says the government is committed to the digital security of Indians, and is striving to make messaging platforms more secure. “On September 5, 2019, WhatsApp wrote to CERT-In, providing update to the security incident reported in May 2019 stating that while the full extent of this attack may never be known,” The Indian Express quotes the law minister as saying. “WhatsApp continues to review the available information.”
2.33 pm: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has taken up the WhatsApp spyware attack for discussion in the Rajya Sabha, reports News18.
2.14 pm: All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi has called Pragya Thakur “an enemy of Gandhi and a supporter of his killers”, reports ANI. He has submitted a privilege motion against the MP from Bhopal.
2.09 pm: Union Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar has introduced the Industrial Relations Code Bill 2019 in the Lok Sabha, reports PTI. The Congress and other Opposition parties have described the proposed law as “anti-labourers”. They want the bill to be referred to the parliamentary standing committee on labour.
2.07 pm: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor questions BJP’s decision to remove Pragya Thakur from a parliamentary panel. “She should not be allowed to sit in Parliament till she apologises, we will demand a censure motion,” he tells ANI.
1.15 pm: Pragya Thakur again defends her remark in Parliament, tweets: “Sometimes the storm of falsehood is so deep that even the day begins to seem like night, but the sun never loses its light. People should not get misled by a momentary storm, sunlight is stationary. The truth is just that I was unable to accept the insult of Udham Singh ji yesterday.”
In 1940, Udham Singh, a revolutionary, had assassinated former Punjab Lieutenant Governor Michael O’Dwyer, who had supported Colonel Reginald Dyer’s decision to fire on unarmed protestors in Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. Singh was tried and executed by the British.
1.05 pm: The Rajya Sabha has been adjourned till 2 pm.
12.15 pm: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeks the Parliament’s approval for spending an additional Rs 19,000 crore in the current fiscal year, PTI reports.
11.30 am: Congress MPs walk out of the Lok Sabha amid uproar against Pragya Thakur’s remarks on Nathuram Godse, reports ANI.
11.27 am: Rajnath Singh says, “Mahatma Gandhi is an idol for us, he was our guiding light and will remain so.”
11.26 am: Union Minister Rajnath Singh says in the Lok Sabha that Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy was and still is relevant for us, PTI reports. He says, “We condemn any philosophy which describes Nathuram Godse as patriot.”
11.20 am: Amid uproar against Pragya Thakur’s remarks, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla says what she said had been expunged from the records. “How can there be a debate if it is not on record?” he asks, according to ANI.
11.15 am: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, says that Pragya Thakur had called his party a terrorist party in the House on Wednesday. “What’s happening?” he asks. “Will the House stay silent on this? Mahatma Gandhi’s killer was called ‘deshbhakt’.”
11.10 am: The Congress protests against BJP MP Pragya Thakur’s remark about Nathuram Godse. On Wednesday, the Bhopal MP had called Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin a patriot.
11.47 am: BJP Working President JP Nadda says that Pragya Singh Thakur will be removed from the consultative committee of defence, and will not be allowed to participate in the BJP’s parliamentary party meetings in this session.
10.50 am: In a Congress Parliamentary Party meeting before the Parliament sitting, party chief Sonia Gandhi accuses the BJP of making shameless attempts to “subvert democracy” in Maharashtra, PTI reports. She also criticises the state’s Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for acting in an “unprecedented and reprehensible manner”.
10.45 am: DMK MP Kanimozhi has given an adjournment motion notice in the Lok Sabha over the rise in prices of onion.