The Congress Saturday launched an all-out attack on the government, accusing it of deceiving Parliament, duping the Supreme Court, hijacking democracy and indulging in treason, after a media report claimed India bought the Pegasus spyware from Israel as part of a defence deal in 2017.
The Congress said it intends to raise the issue in the budget session starting next week and will demand accountability from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government on the floor of Parliament.
The principal opposition party also urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the matter and initiate appropriate penal proceedings against the government for attempting to deliberately and knowingly "deceive" it.
The shadow of the Pegasus issue looms large again over the 2022 budget session as the entire Monsoon session of 2021 was washed out after the Opposition had jointly stalled the proceedings over the issue.
According to a report in The New York Times, the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the "centerpieces" of a roughly USD 2-billion deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear between India and Israel in 2017.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused the government of treason by "tapping" phones of opposition leaders, armed forces and the judiciary using the Pagasus spyware.
"The Modi Government bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians and public. Government functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary all were targeted by these phone tappings. This is treason," Gandhi said on Twitter.
"The Modi Government has committed treason," he alleged.
Addressing a press conference here, Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged the Modi government "deceived" the Parliament as well as "duped"the Supreme Court of India.
He said the BJP machinery engaged in a massive strategy to also "dupe" the people of the country and it is now clear that the BJP government led by Prime Minister Modi "purchased the illegal and unconstitutional" spyware from Israel and used it against opposition leaders, the judicial, the media and its own functionaries.
He alleged the government used public money to illegally purchase and spy upon its own people, and thus "hijacked" democracy. They committed an act of treason ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he alleged.
"It is now very clear that Parliament was deceived by the Modi government, the Supreme Court was also duped and the people of India were lied to by the Modi government and its ministers.
Surjewala said these things being clear now, the role of the Prime Minister and his responsibility is now directly in question.
“We will seek accountability from the prime minister on the floor of the Parliament along with that of the government in the people's court,” ,” he said.
"We will urge upon the Supreme Court to suo motu now take note and issue appropriate penal proceedings against this government for attempting to deliberately and knowingly deceive the Supreme Court," Surjewala said, alleging the “deception” with the top court is nothing short of perjury.
"It is treason, it is hijack of democracy and it is a systematic deception and attack on the fundamental rights of privacy and dismantling of national security considering who all were spied upon illegally and constitutional by this government," he alleged.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who joined him at the press conference, said when the government was "not ready to discuss the issue of Pegasus on our demand, it shows that they wanted to hide something from the people of the country".
The money belongs to the public but these people are using it for snooping on people who are opposing them, he alleged.
Kharge said if the government was doing it for the safety and security of the country, it was fine, but they are using it against Opposition leaders, ministers and government functionaries, the judiciary and the media.
The government had previously denied all Opposition allegations in the matter.