The reports, appearing on the eve of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, look more than just a coincidence, and are an attempt to malign Indian democracy, he said.
The minister termed the allegations as “over the top.” He said past instances of similar allegations of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware were denied by the persons who were allegedly targeted.
He expressed confidence in India’s systems to prevent such illegal monitoring.
“Any form of illegal surveillance isn’t possible with checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions. In India, there’s a well-established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out for purpose of national security,” Vaishnaw said in Lok Sabha.
According to reports that emerged on Sunday evening, the software of Israeli origin was used to hack into smartphones of several individuals, including Indians, for electronic surveillance. Journalists, activists and politicians were said to be on the list of affected persons.
Spyware Pegasus, which is sold by the NSO Group of Israel, may have been used to conduct surveillance on about 300 Indians, including two serving Cabinet ministers at the Centre, three opposition leaders, a Constitutional authority, government officials, scientists and about 40 journalists,
The Congress on Monday demanded an independent probe into the issue involving alleged phone tapping of prominent personalities including journalists. Party leader Shashi Tharoor said the matter is serious and concerns national security. He demanded an independent judicial inquiry or probe by a joint parliamentary committee.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar sounded caution on adopting new technologies, and said they could be prone to such misuse.
“I have been saying that new technology will definitely create problems. We should look into this aspect. Such new technologies are beneficial, but people also misuse them. Social media has a far-reaching impact,” Kumar said.
An international media consortium reported that more than 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including several in India, could have been targeted for hacking through the Israeli spyware sold only to government agencies.
The government has dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people.
(With agency inputs)