Pegasus spyware issue | PIL in Supreme Court seeks SIT probe

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on its critics, Opposition leaders, activists, journalists and even on its own Ministers.

The petition filed by Supreme Court advocate Manohar Lal Sharma asked “whether the Constitution allows the Prime Minister and his Minister to snoop on citizens of India for their vested political interest”.

“Pegasus is not just a surveillance tool. It is a cyber-weapon being unleashed on the Indian polity. Even if authorised [which is doubtful], the use of Pegasus poses a national security risk,” Mr. Sharma, who is petitioner-in-person, submitted.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi, Prashant Kishor, ex-EC Lavasa on list of potential spyware targets

Club of authoritarian States

If Pegasus is used in India, Mr. Sharma contended, India would be known to be part of a club of authoritarian States.

“If Pegasus is present in India, we stand out because we are part of a club of mostly authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states using this technology. It does not speak well of us as a democracy. It also does not speak well of us as a capable State. If our capabilities are so low that private foreign contractors are rampant, it is probably also an indication that we have no means of protecting ourselves,” the petition, filed on Wednesday, said.

The petition asked the court to examine if snooping in this case does not attract offences under the Official Secrets Act, Information Technology Act besides violating Article 21.

He said the “cause of action” for his petition first rose on November 28, 2019 when the Minister did not respond in the Lok Sabha to “pointed questions from Congress MPs Digvijaya Singh and Jairam Ramesh on whether the government had bought the Pegasus software”.

Also read: Editorial | Spy in hand

The petition said a fresh cause of action arose on July 20 when the Minister, this time in the Rajya Sabha, did “not reply to the same question raised by about the purchase of Pegasus spy software from an Israeli company and using it in India against Opposition leaders, human rights activist, and political rivals prior to 2019”.

Attack on democracy, judiciary and security

“Pegasus scandal is a matter of grave concern and a serious attack upon Indian democracy, judiciary and country security. The widespread and unaccountable use of surveillance is morally disfiguring.”

It said the right to privacy was not about the wish to hide, as is often asserted.

“It is about having a space of one’s own where our thoughts and our being are not the instrument of someone else’s purposes. It is an essential component of dignity,” Mr. Sharma contended.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 4:29:11 AM |

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