New Delhi : Supreme Court on Thursday said it will set up a committee for the inquiry in Pegasus case. SC reserved its orders after government stated ‘it had nothing to hide’ but sited ‘national security’ to say it would not file an affidavit in response to the petitions.
The Chief Justice NV Ramana stated that the Supreme Court will set a committee, appoint members to inquire about Pegasus snooping row and the interim orders would likely be issued next week.
NV Ramana was hearing another matter when he told one of representative lawyers of Pegasus Petitioners about this development. He said, “We wanted to pass an order on the matter before this week… but some members we thought of considering for the (expert) committee… for personal reasons they declined to be part of this committee. Hence the delay. We will try to pass an order on Pegasus next week.”
The government in last hearing on September 13, offered to set up a committee to inquire into allegations of violation of privacy. Government had said that it would form a committee, and would report to Supreme Court. This was due to strong remarks on the refusal to file an affidavit citing “National Security.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had initially told to the court that, “Filing (an affidavit) and making it (the question of whether the Indian government uses Pegasus) public discourse is not possible (as it) will affect national security… We cannot let terrorists know what software is used…”
Unhappy with this the Chief Justice reminded Mr. Mehta him the main issue. He said that we don’t want to know about national security, the issue is about citizens are saying their phone is tapped.
Justice Surya Kant on this said, “Last time also… we clarified (won’t) intervene in national security. The issue is about claims of individual phones hacked. Which agency has powers… is it authorized?”
The court then pointed out that even if a committee were appointed, its report would normally – like the affidavit the government declined to file – also be a matter of public record.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for two petitioners, had said: “… don’t want to hamper national security… (but) if Pegasus was used, ordinary citizens targeted, it is very serious.”
Mr Sibal also asked why the government should be allowed to set up a committee of its own.
“We have to do something… Mr Mehta, beating about the bush will not solve the issue. Let us see what order we have to pass,” the Chief Justice concluded, as the court reserved orders.
The top court has been hearing a out the petitions demanding an inquiry. The allegations are that an Indian client of the Israeli spyware used it for illegal surveillance of electronic devices.
According to media reports, phone numbers of over 300 opposition leaders, journalists were targeted through pegasus spyware. Reports also said Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, and industrialist Anil Ambani – were on a list of potential targets.
The government has denied the allegations in an earlier (limited) affidavit. It dismissed them as being based on unsustainable media reports and turned down requests of any inquiries.