Allegations of surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth: Govt
New Delhi, July 18, 2021
Amid reports of snooping of prominent citizens, the Indian government said that allegations of surveillance on specific people have no concrete basis or truth associated with them whatsoever.
In response to journalists' queries on snooping of prominent citizens, Additional Secretary, Electronics and Information Technology, Rajender Kumar said: "India is a robust democracy that is committed to ensuring the right to privacy to all its citizens as a fundamental right. In furtherance of this commitment, it has also introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to protect the personal data of individuals and to empower users of social media platforms."
"The commitment to free speech as a fundamental right is the cornerstone of India's democratic system. We have always strived to attain an informed citizenry with an emphasis on a culture of open dialogue.
"Government of India's response to a Right to Information application about the use of Pegasus has been prominently reported by the media and is in itself sufficient to counter any malicious claims about the alleged association between the Government of India and Pegasus," he added.
He stated that the questionnaire sent to the Government of India indicates that "the story being crafted is one that is not only bereft of facts but also founded in preconceived conclusions".
"It seems you are trying to play the role of an investigator, prosecutor as well as jury," he wrote.
He pointed out that answers to the queries posed have already been in public domain for a long time, and it also indicates poorly conducted research and lack of due diligence by the media organisations involved.
He held that in India there is a well-established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out in order for the purpose of national security, particularly on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety, by agencies at the Centre and states.
"The requests for these lawful interception of electronic communication are made as per relevant rules under the provisions of Section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act ,1885 and Section 69 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2000," the official said.
He mentioned that India's Minister of Electronics & IT has also spoken in detail, including in the Parliament, that there has been no unauthorised interception by Government agencies.
"It is important to note that government agencies have a well-established protocol for interception, which includes sanction and supervision from highly ranked officials in Central and state governments, for clear stated reasons only in national interest. The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever," he said.
He further mentioned that in the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by the Indian state and those reports also had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including WhatsApp in the Indian Supreme Court.
"This news report, thus, also appears to be a similar fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions," he said.