BJP lawmakers abort parliamentary panel meet on Pegasus
Dissenting BJP lawmakers and absentee government officials on Wednesday forced a parliamentary panel to indefinitely postpone a scheduled meeting on the Pegasus snooping allegations, Opposition members alleged.
As the House IT panel met on Parliament premises, the BJP members allegedly refused to sign the attendance register. This ensured a lack of quorum — the minimum attendance needed for a meeting to be officially relevant.
Also, the IT and home ministry officials summoned by the committee to answer questions about the snooping charges made “excuses” to stay away, an Opposition MP alleged.
No new date has been set for the meeting.
Wednesday’s scuttling of the panel meeting comes at a time the government has refused a discussion on the Pegasus controversy in Parliament, betraying its jitters.
The parliamentary panel on information technology, headed by former Union minister and Congress member Shashi Tharoor, was to take up the Pegasus allegations under the broad agenda of “Citizens’ data security and privacy”.
The BJP members arrived for the meeting but refused to sign the register objecting to the committee’s intention of discussing the Pegasus controversy.
The quorum required for the 31-member panel is 10 but only nine members signed the register, sources said.
They said the BJP members of the parliamentary panel had since Tuesday begun efforts to scuttle Wednesday’s meeting. On Tuesday, they had boycotted a meeting of the panel on a cinematography-related subject and approached the Lok Sabha Speaker demanding Tharoor’s removal as chairman for trying to take up the Pegasus issue.
On Wednesday, a BJP member of the panel, Nishikant Dubey, submitted a privilege notice in the Lok Sabha against Tharoor, accusing him of unilaterally fixing the agenda for the panel’s meetings to suit his “political masters”. He demanded Tharoor’s removal.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting had, however, been notified by the Lok Sabha secretariat a week ago.
Congress MP Karti P. Chidambaram and Trinamul MP Mahua Moitra, who are members of the House IT panel, hit out at the BJP.
“@BJP4India members come to the IT Committee & refuse to sign the register to deny a quorum,” Karti tweeted.
“Further, all the witnesses called from MiEIT (ministry of electronics and information technology) & MHA (ministry of home affairs) wrote in excuses & didn’t appear as called to testify. It’s very clear that #Pegasus is a no go area for this government.”
@BJP4India members come to the IT Committee & refuse to sign the attendance register to deny a quorum. Further all the witnesses called from MiEIT & MHA wrote in excuses & didn’t appear as called to testify. It’s very clear that #Pegasus is a no go area for this government.— Karti P Chidambaram (@KartiPC) July 28, 2021
In a second tweet, Karti said: “The @BJP4India wants to expunge #Pegasus from any debate, scrutiny or enquiry! What are they so afraid of?”
Moitra tweeted: “Heights of desperation by @BJP & minions. Nishikant Dubey files privilege motion against @ShashiTharoor just to prevent IT Comm from grilling MHA on Pegasus.”
Heights of desperation by @BJP & minions. Nishikant Dubey files privelege motion against @ShashiTharoor just to prevent IT Comm from grilling MHA on Pegasus.— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) July 28, 2021
I moved privilege motion against IT Minister on 23/7 for lying in house. How has that not been taken up? pic.twitter.com/eVF2b9E4iG
Among the BJP members of the panel are Tejasvi Surya and Locket Chatterjee.