The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking a special investigation team (SIT) probe into the Union government’s role in the Pegasus snooping row . It has stated that the “indiscriminate use” of top-end surveillance technology against journalists destroys free speech and “poisons the heart of democracy”.
The Guild pointed out that freedom of Press is a hard-won right essential to democracy.
“Freedom of the Press relies on non-interference by the government and its agencies in the reporting of journalists, including their ability to securely and confidentially speaking with sources, investigate abuse of power and corruption, expose governmental incompetence, and speak with those in the Opposition,” the petition, filed through advocate Lzafeer Ahamed B.F., said.
N. Ram, Sashi Kumar’s plea
The petition follows the one filed by senior journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar , challenging the government to come clean about the Pegasus allegations. Rajya Sabha member John Brittas and Supreme Court lawyer ML Sharma have separately moved the court.
Journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shataksi, reported to be victims of Pegasus surveillance, had also moved the apex court, saying they were subjected to “deeply intrusive surveillance”. They said a forensic examination done by the Amnesty International on mobile phones revealed traces of interference.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana is scheduled to hear the Pegasus row petitions on August 5.
On Tuesday, the Guild said a court-monitored probe should look into “every aspect of the use of Pegasus by the government against Indian citizens, especially journalists”.
Questions and attempts to garner the truth from the government have reached a dead-end. In fact, the government had “stonewalled” efforts to seek accountability, the petition said.
The government had “deliberately avoided” public debate on the issue. It had only provided some “obfuscated answers” to straight questions about its alleged role in the snooping, the plea stated.
“The citizens of India have a right to know if the Executive government is infringing the limits of their authority under the Constitution and what steps have been taken to safeguard their fundamental rights,”it said.
The Guild told the court that it was only seeking the enforcement of the public’s right to know the truth about who was behind the Pegasus surveillance exercise. It also sought a “complete overhaul” of the “surveillance architecture” by even challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules 1951, Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption) of Information Rules, 2009.