SC to hear Pegasus case today, set to examine panel report on spying allegations

Supreme Court of India. File

Supreme Court of India. File | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

A Special Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana is scheduled to examine on May 20 an interim report of its technical committee, which is examining allegations of the government using Pegasus, the Israeli military grade software, to spy on citizens.

A separate application filed by advocate M.L. Sharma urging the court to take cognisance of a recent New York Times report that India bought Pegasus spyware from Israel is listed before the Bench, which also comprises Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.

The case was scheduled to come up for hearing in February this year. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, had sought an adjournment.

The Pegasus case was listed for hearing on February 23, almost four months after the court set up the technical committee monitored by former Supreme Court judge Justice R.V. Raveendran on October 27 last year.

Twelve Pegasus petitions have been listed before the Bench on Thursday.

News reports on the controversy allege that a cross-section of people from journalists, activists, parliamentarians, government officials, lawyers and even court staffers were targeted using Pegasus.

The court had tasked the technical committee to “enquire, investigate and determine” whether the “Pegasus suite of spyware was used on phones or other devices of the citizens of India to access stored data, eavesdrop on conversations, intercept information and/or for any other purposes”.

The other questions for the committee included whether Pegasus was used by the Centre or State or any of their agencies against their own citizens, and if used, was it authorised and under what law or procedure.

The Supreme Court had wanted the committee to dive deep into the first public signs of the alleged use of the spyware years ago. The court had wanted the committee to dig up the steps taken by the government “after reports were published in the year 2019 about hacking of WhatsApp accounts of Indian citizens, using the Pegasus suite of spyware”.

The court also wanted the committee to use its expertise to test the existing surveillance laws and procedures to see how much they valued and protected citizens’ privacy.

The court had asked the committee to also suggest means to prevent State and non-State players from invading the fundamental right of privacy of citizens through illegal surveillance mounted on them. It had urged the Justice Raveendran panel to come up with suggestions for enhancing and improving the cyber security of the nation and its assets.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 10:21:32 am |