The obstinacy of the Modi government to not discuss an issue that threatens national security and citizens' rights in the parliament not only threatens democracy but also underpins the suspicions about the government. Parliamentary proceedings have been getting disrupted for nine days now. Realising the seriousness of the Pegasus row, the opposition unitedly called for a discussion on it in the house. One can assume what the government's problem is in accepting this request. The government decided to not discuss this 'non-issue' overturning its earlier position that discussion could be held on all topics. The stubbornness of the government to not discuss the Pegasus row even if the parliament is disrupted or they have to pass bills without discussing them on the floor, only proves the fear of the ruling government. The Union government's approach to the demand for an enquiry under the supervision of the Supreme Court was no different. Meanwhile, West Bengal has constituted a Commission of Inquiry comprising two former judges. The Supreme Court has also assented to hear the matter at the request of a few journalists and public representatives. The Prime Minister and Home Minister are staying mum on an issue in which there is no reason not to investigate. They have not been able to refute the reports despite having trivialised them. The hint is obvious considering that the victims of the snooping are mostly critics of the government.
Several factors demand an explanation from the government. Firstly, the Israeli firm NSO, which provides the Pegasus spyware, sells it only to governments. Who in India purchased the spyware on a large scale? Who gave the huge fund required for its purchase and how was it paid? Such questions are central for aspects including national security. In the espionage, in which a judge who was later rewarded with a membership in Rajya Sabha can be deemed to be a beneficiary, the victims include journalists outside the good books of the government, Election Commissioner and Opposition leaders. The Israeli company claims that they sell this virus only to prevent terrorism and crimes. However, in India, it has been used against journalists, human rights activists, and critics of the government. It is the government that should clarify who consented to this transaction which is against the constitution and democratic values. If consent was not granted, then it must reveal how such a breach in security occurred. Other conuntries where the 'Pegasus infection' was detected, have taken up the matter with utmost seriousness. The French government has begun an investigation. NSO office was raided by Israeli authorities; they have said that investigation and subsequent action would continue. And here, both the Prime Minister and Home Minister are pretending to know nothing; Parliamentary Affairs minister Pralhad Joshi advises members to not create a ruckus over a non issue.
A spyware that can infiltrate anywhere any time, an Israeli firm that knows how to use it in any manner, a government with no qualms about subjecting opponents to espionage and false charges and a state of affairs where constitutional mechanisms including the Election Commission and the judiciary – if these appear to be 'non-issues', that very response has to be seen as a major disqualification in a democracy. To be added to this is the extra-ordinary situation that in spite of the summons sent by the parliamentary standing committee on the subject, officials concerned from three ministries failed to appear before it. The government's defiant attitude that it is above the legislature and the judiciary and that it is not answerable to anyone, proves the undemocratic nature of this government. Such trivialisation of constitutional institutions does not go well with democracy. The unification of democratic forces on the issue is also a chance for deterring this undemocratic move.
There is no justification for the Modi government to not fulfil its responsibility to the public in the Pegasus row. There should no more be any hindrance to democratic debate and discussion in the houses of the parliament. A detailed judicial enquiry must also be conducted in the matter. Democracy is no child's play.