Following a stormy start earlier in the week, the Monsoon Session of Parliament continued to be rocked by ruckus on Thursday with opposition members protesting and over a range of issues, including the Pegasus snooping controversy. Lok Sabha was adjourned following continuous sloganeering by members of the Opposition.
As Rajya Sabha resumed after the first adjournment, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw addressed the Pegasus issue in Parliament and said that the reports about the alleged use of the spyware for snooping were nothing but an attempt to malign the Indian government. Following his statement, the IT Minister laid out his statement on the table of the house.
Opposition TMC MPs, however, tore papers and flung them into the air, throwing the Rajya Sabha into bedlam.
TMC and other opposition party members rushed into the well of the House as Vaishnaw was called to make a statement over the issue.
They shouted slogans and tore papers that appeared to be copies of the statement that the minister was to make.
As papers were flung into the air, the minister could not complete his statement and instead laid a copy of it on the table of the House.
Deputy Chairman Harivansh asked members to desist from unparliamentary behaviour, before adjourning the proceedings of the House for the rest of the day.
Opposition MPs had stalled the proceedings in the earlier part of the day as well, forcing two adjournments with not even officially listed papers being allowed to be laid.
They shouted slogans over alleged snooping and other issues.
Speaker Om Birla repeatedly urged the protesting members to go back to their respective seats and said he was ready to give adequate time to discuss the issues raised by them. He said people have elected them to Parliament to raise their issues and that sloganeering was not right.
The monsoon session is currently underway with the Opposition ready to corner the government on several issues including oxygen deaths and Pegasus. Congress's KC Venugopal was set to move a privilege motion on Thursday at 10 am, ahead of the session which started at 11 am. Earlier, Venugopal had attacked the Centre for claiming no deaths due to oxygen were reported from states and union territories in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and accused the government of 'misleading' the house with 'false information.
The farm laws issue is also expected to dominate proceedings today with farmer leaders planning a mock Parliament demonstration in Jantar Mantar to agitate against the Centre's three controversial farm bills.
With regard to the issue of farm laws, AAP MP Bhagwant Mann said in a tweet that he has moved another adjournment motion demanding the withdrawal of the bills. Mann, who is the Aam Aadmi Party's Punjab President, had on Frida written an open letter to the MPs of all political parties, urging them to back farmers and force the Centre to repeal its contentious farm laws.
Congress MP Manickam Tagore has also given adjournment motion notice regarding the prolonged agitation of farmers', and directed government to withdraw the 'anti-farmer' laws.
On the Pegasus snooping issues, a parliamentary panel on IT headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor is likely to question top government officials, including from Home Ministry, next week on allegations related to phone tapping of many using Pegasus spyware, sources said on Wednesday.
An international media consortium has claimed that several Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists were among those whose phone numbers were listed as potential targets for hacking through the Israeli spyware which is usually supplied to government agencies.
The Indian government and Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, which sells Pegasus spyware worldwide, have refuted the reports.
(With inputs from PTI)