File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
Most agencies allowed to snoop on people are at the top of the pecking order and carry out functions of national importance
The Whatsapp-Pegasus snooping scandal has created uproar in the Indian Parliament, with opposition lawmakers cornering the central government on what has essentially become one of the biggest cyber-attacks on Indian soil.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) legislator and former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran asked the government whether it had used the Israeli spyware Pegasus to snoop on multiple activists, politicians, and journalists.
In the official Government of India response to the question of Whatsapp tapping, the government responded by asserting Section 69 of the Information Technology Act. The section empowers the Central Government or a state government to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order.
The response additionally mentions that only ten security agencies in India are empowered to carry out the monitoring and mass surveillance to protect the country's interests.
These organisations are Intelligence Bureau, the National Investigation Agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, RAW - the Research and Analysis Wing, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
According to the government's response, any interception or monitoring or decryption of any information from any computer resource can be done only by these authorised agencies.
Most of these are agencies at the top of the pecking order and carry out functions of national importance.
And the Ministry also says that any interception of information from citizens can be done only as per the established laws and safeguards which have been enshrined in the Indian telegraph rules and the information technology laws.
Today, a 31-member parliamentary panel led by opposition legislator Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Indian National Congress will examine the snooping row, and seek details from top officials on what measures the government is taking to ensure that such cyber-attacks are never repeated.
On the question of whether the Indian government used the Pegasus software to snoop on people, the authorities chose not to respond. Out of the seven queries submitted to the government, six were answered.