New Delhi: A meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology witnessed high-level drama Wednesday and had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum after BJP members refused to sign the meet’s attendance register, ThePrint has learnt.
The meeting, which was scheduled to discuss the Pegasus ‘hacking’ controversy, had to be adjourned because a minimum of 10 members are required to maintain quorum in the 31-member committee. Of the total members, 15 are from the BJP.
Calling the meeting’s developments as “unprecedented”, an MP, who is also a member of the committee, told ThePrint that members of the BJP attended the meeting but said they should be treated as ‘absent’ as they have not signed the attendance register.
“We protested but they were adamant that standing committee meetings can’t be held when the Parliament is in session,” said the MP, who wished to remain unnamed.
According to the MP, the demand was bizarre as meetings were held regularly even when Parliament is in session. “Today also there were other standing committee meetings that were held.”
Furthermore, officials of the IT ministry, who were summoned by the panel to discuss the Pegasus issue, also did not attend the meeting citing the ongoing Monsoon session.
“The officials wrote to the committee at the eleventh hour saying they won’t be able to attend as they are tied up with other meetings because of the Parliament session,” said the MP quoted above.
Government sources, however, said that the IT ministry had already informed the committee about the unavailability of officers.
After the meeting was adjourned, Shashi Tharoor, chairman of the IT committee, and non-BJP members of the panel met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and complained about the way the meeting had to be adjourned because of the stand taken by BJP members.
Also read: Tough to explain Pegasus to masses amid issues like Covid & inflation, Shashi Tharoor says
Pegasus ‘no-go’ area for govt: Congress
Soon after the high-level drama in the meeting, Karti Chidambaram, Congress MP and member of the committee, tweeted that Pegasus was 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
“The @BJP4India wants to expunge #Pegasus from any debate, scrutiny or enquiry! What are they so afraid of?(sic)” Chidambaram asked in a second tweet.
Meanwhile, another member of the IT committee said that the BJP members had been preparing to prevent the meeting from taking place since a day earlier.
“Yesterday also, the BJP members had boycotted the meeting of the committee called to review the draft cinematograph law on the grounds that standing committee meetings can’t be held when the Parliament is in session. But we managed to get to the quorum and the meeting took place,” the member said.
Earlier in the day, another member of the IT committee, BJP leader from Jharkhand Nishikant Dubey, filed a privilege motion against the panel chairman Tharoor for not discussing the agenda of the meeting with the panel first and sharing it with the media instead.
The Opposition has been up in arms against the government since the start of the monsoon session on 19 July.
The House proceedings have been regularly disrupted over the Pegasus spyware controversy, in which the Modi government has been accused of using the software to attempt hacking into phones of several activists, journalists and politicians.
Also read: Pegasus row forges rare opposition unity. Led by Congress, parties demand Parliament debate