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HomeCampus VoiceAccountability is democracy’s cardinal character. Pegasus just ruined that in India

Accountability is democracy’s cardinal character. Pegasus just ruined that in India

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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The Isareli spyware Pegasus made its way into headlines in India in 2021. A New York Times report titled, “The Battle for the Most Powerful Weapon”, made revelations regarding the controversial topic of purchasing the spyware by NSO. The report stated that India had purchased Pegasus as part of a $2 billion deal with Israel in 2017. The revelation spread like wildfire and is generating a lot of doubts and allegations against the Narendra Modi government.

After the alleged snooping row of the digital devices of various prominent personalities, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that there was no information on any order given to purchase Pegasus. Since there were many allegations regarding illegal snooping, the Supreme court had constituted a committee under Justice MB Lokur for a ‘thorough inquiry’ regarding Pegasus and requested the government to cooperate.

Ronan Bergman, the NYT reporter who unfolded the story of Pegasus, had stated, “The way the pricing of the machine that was sold to India works, it has a certain capacity, it has a bandwidth, that is determined in advance and that’s what you pay for, in the end user certificate which is signed at the end by the official entities”. This clearly shows the process of purchasing the spyware as something that cannot take place without official sanction and consent.

Public-private debate

Now, this revelation made Opposition leaders and those whose devices were attacked through this spyware demand that the issue be concretely discussed in Parliament by passing the privilege motion. The snooping through Pegasus infringed the privacy of individuals.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez famously told his biographer Gerald Martin, “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” This issue is about a person who has lived under the spotlight for so long that most Indians think there is nothing more to know about him or her. But that is not how privacy functions. In a country like India that preaches democracy as its cardinal character has spectacularly failed in being accountable to citizens and victims of this spyware.

Through lack of accountability and transparency, the government lessens the faith of citizens in it, which acts as a barricade to growth and development in the country. A country with great diversity like India requires greater accountability in functioning. The socio-mechanic framework of liability acts as the bridge in democracy. Alan Dershowitz, the prominent American lawyer remarks, “Candor and accountability in a democracy is very important. Hypocrisy has no place.”

Good governance promotes ceaseless dialogue between civil society and the government. Good governance can be ensured through accountability, not only to institutions but also to civil society.

The author is a student at Narayana Degree College, Telangana. Views are personal.

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