Justice Madan B. Lokur to head Commission of Inquiry set up by West Bengal government to probe Pegasus spyware controversy

Published : July 26, 2021 21:06 IST

Madan B. Lokur, retired judge of the Supreme Court. Photo: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

As the Pegasus spyware controversy continues to rage in Parliament and across the country, West Bengal became the first State to set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into the matter. The decision to set up a two-member Commission headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Madan Bhimarao Lokur, and retired Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, was taken at a Cabinet meeting on July 26, hours before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee left for New Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and opposition leaders.

Announcing the establishment of the Commission, Banerjee said, “The Cabinet has approved the appointment of a commission of inquiry consisting of Hon’ble Justice M.B. Lokur, retired judge, Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, and Hon'ble Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, retired Chief Justice, Hon'ble High Court at Calcutta, in exercise of the power conferred by Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, in the matter of the widely reported illegal hacking, monitoring, putting under surveillance, tracking, recording, etc., of mobile phones of various persons in the State of West Bengal.” Earlier, on July 21, Mamata Banerjee, in her annual Martyrs’ Day speech had appealed to the Supreme Court to take “a suo motu cognisance” of the development or set up an SIT (Special Investigating Team) that will work under its supervision.

The setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has been seen as a masterstroke in Mamata Banerjee’s ongoing battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre. Not only has this served to embarrass an already-cornered Union government, it has also re-emphasised her stature as a formidable opponent of Narendra Modi. She had already given her clarion call on July 21 to those parties opposed to the BJP to unite and prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha election to oust the Modi government; and she had also made it clear that she would be going to New Delhi to hold talks with opposition leaders. “For the whole of last week we thought that with Parliament in session, the Central government would surely start an investigation headed by a Supreme Court judge and under the supervision of the Supreme Court. But when we saw that this government was totally unconcerned, I decided, before leaving for Delhi, to set up a Commission of Inquiry…. If someone is not waking up, then there is the need to wake that person up. We hope this small step we have taken will help wake others up,” Mamata Banerjee said.

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