Court defers order on whether to put Shashi Tharoor on trial in his wife Sunanda's death case

NEW DELHI: BJP MP Nishikant Dubey on Wednesday demanded the removal of Congress leader Shashi Tharoor as the head of the Parliamentary panel on Information Technology, alleging that he was using his position in a discriminatory manner.

Dubey raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, saying a letter has already been submitted to the Speaker in this regard on Tuesday.

The parliamentary panel’s meeting that was set to question government officials on Wednesday on the Pegasus spyware issue was postponed due to lack of quorum.

A number of members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology sat in Parliament to discuss ‘Citizens’ safety and date protection’. However, BJP members of the panel who were present in the meeting room didn’t sign the attendance register in protest leading to a lack of quorum required for holding the meeting.

The panel’s chair Tharoor had said the panel members will question officials from the Information and Technology Ministry and the Home Ministry who will depose before it on the Pegasus issue.

BJP members opposed this alleging that when the Congress is not allowing discussion on this issue in Parliament then it can’t be discussed in the committee meeting.

“BJP members come to the IT Committee and refuse to sign the attendance register to deny a quorum. Further, all the witnesses called from MiEIT and MHA wrote in excuses and didn’t appear as called to testify. It’s very clear that Pegasus is a no go area for this government,” the Congress’ Karti Chidambaram, who is a member of the panel, said on Twitter.

Since the beginning of the Monsoon Session on July 19, both Houses have seen repeated disruptions as opposition parties have been demanding a Supreme Court-monitored judicial probe in this matter.

The 32-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT was scheduled to meet on Wednesday, for which the listed agenda was — Citizens’ data security and privacy — according to a notification by Lok Sabha Secretariat.

The panel, which has the maximum members from the ruling BJP, had summoned officials from the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers — Prahlad Singh Patel and Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, businessman Anil Ambani, a former CBI chief, and at least 40 journalists are on the list on the leaked database of NSO.

It is, however, not established that all the phones were hacked.