“Involves National Security Issues”: SG Mehta Tells SC On Placing Facts About Pegasus In Affidavit

“If govt is reluctant and say they don’t want to file an affidavit, how do we compel them?” CJI Ramana asked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, during the hearing on the Pegasus “snooping” matter in the Apex Court, said that placing the facts in an affidavit regarding whether the government did or did not buy the Pegasus spyware involves “national security issues”.

“The Minister concerned with this department has given details, as how this Pegasus issue has been raging fire for issues. The placing of facts will involve national security issues,” SG Mehta, representing the centre in the Supreme Court, said on Monday.

The centre, earlier in its two-page affidavit in the Supreme Court, “unequivocally” denied all allegations made against the government by petitioners led by journalist N Ram about using military grade spyware to snoop on journalists, politicians, activists and court staff. The government said that the PILs by N Ram, Yashwant Sinha, Editors Guild and 7 others have made allegations “based on conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said such material cannot be the basis for filing PILs.

The government will soon set up a committee of experts to examine all issues raised in the Pegasus controversy to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests, the affidavit informed.

However, when asked by the three-judge bench headed by CJI Ramana about why the SG is not inclined to put everything in an affidavit so that they could get clarity, SG Mehta said: “I’m posing a question to myself, if i file an affidavit saying Pegasus was never used, will they (Petitioners) withdraw their petitions? If lordships are convinced it needs to be gone into, we are ready to make a Committee.”

“If it needs to be gone into, I’m ready. Allow us to have a committee. A false narrative is being created. It’s showing a good faith decision by the government. We have made clear before Parliament that we have gone by statutory regime,” SG Mehta added.

CJI Ramana, while questioning how the committee will look into it, highlighted two issues. “Experts can go into angle of software being used or not. Other issues of permission, procurement has to be examined too, who will examine?” the CJI asked.

“The experts can. They can be conferred by the court with whatever terms of reference. They can be mandated by this court,” SG Mehta responded.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibbal, while appearing for the petitioners, said: “Let them say if the government used it or not, That will not reveal any national security issue.”

“If govt is reluctant and say they don’t want to file an affidavit how do we compel them?” CJI Ramana asked.

“Let them say that, then we can argue the other issues. In that case the matter gets even more serious because they are not denying it,” Mr Sibal retorted.

The bench, at the end of the hearing, said it will continue hearing the matter tomorrow.

“If you have a change of mind, let us know tomorrow,” the bench told SG Mehta before the end of the hearing.


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