‘WB Was Offered Pegasus Spyware for Rs 25 Cr, I Turned It Down’: Mamata Banerjee
Banerjee added that she had turned down the offer as the spyware could have been exploited politically.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday, 17 March, said that Israeli cyber intelligence company, NSO Group, had come to the state police department four-five years ago, to sell the spyware Pegasus at a cost of Rs 25 crore.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief added that she had turned down the offer as the spyware could have been exploited politically and targeted judges and officials, something that was unacceptable.
This comes after almost a year since a report published by an Indian online news portal in July, revealed that Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to have been used to snoop on at least 300 Indian phone numbers, including those of over 40 senior journalists, opposition leaders, government officials, and human rights activists.
India was recently rated as a "partially free" country for the second consecutive year in the annual report of Freedom House, citing the Narendra Modi-led government's new social media rules, the Pegasus spyware issue, and the October 2021 violence against farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri as some of the factors behind the assessment.
The Pegasus snooping revelations of July 2021 were also cited by the freedom evaluation report.
The Freedom House report noted, "A media investigation found in July that Pegasus spyware had been detected on smartphones belonging to dozens of leading opposition politicians, activists, businesspeople, and journalists."
The Pegasus panel, appointed by the Supreme Court, has submitted an interim report appraising the apex court about the progress on the probe.
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