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The central government on Sunday dismissed allegations of tapping phones of prominent individuals including ministers, opposition leaders, journalists, businessmen and others.

An official statement released by the central government said: “The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with its whatsoever.”

In response to questionnaire the government said: “It seems you are trying to play the role of an investigator, prosecutor as well as jury.”

The statement said: “Government of India’s response to a Right to Information application about the use of Pegasus has been prominently reported by media and is in itself sufficient to counter any malicious claims about the alleged association between the government and Pegasus.”

The government said similar claims were made in the past regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by India.

Those reports, the statement said, had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including WhatsApp in the Supreme Court.

Also read: Phones of Indian politicians, journalists and judges tapped? ‘Really big story’ to get published today!

The phone numbers of over 40 Indian journalists appearing on a leaked list of potential targets for surveillance and forensic tests confirmed that some of them were successfully snooped upon by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware, The Wire reported.

According to reports, the leaked data includes the phone numbers of top journalists in big media houses like the Hindustan Times, including executive editor Shishir Gupta, India Today, Network18, The Hindu and Indian Express.

TheWire founder-editors Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K. Venu are also on the list.

According to the reports, a leaked database of thousands of telephone numbers believed to have been listed by multiple government clients of an Israeli surveillance technology firm includes over 300 verified Indian mobile telephone numbers.

The phone numbers are used by two Union ministers of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government, three major opposition leaders, current and former heads and officials of security organisations, journalists, the legal community, businessmen, scientists, rights activists and others, say reports.

The Wire reported that the France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International first had access to the leaked list which they shared with it and 15 other media houses worldwide as part of a lengthy collaborative investigation called the Pegasus Project.

Working together, these media houses, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, Le Monde and Suddeutsche Zeitung, were able to independently identify the owners of over 1,571 numbers across at least 10 countries and forensically examine a small cross-section of phones associated with these numbers to test for the presence of Pegasus, the report said.

While reacting to the Centre’s response, Congress leader Shashi Tharror tweeted: “GoI has denied resorting to unauthorised surveillance. The question this raises is, if #Pegasus is only sold to governments, which other govts (China/Pak?) are using it to snoop on prominent Indian citizens? Shouldn’t the authorities call for an independent investigation?”

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