Supreme Court to pass orders on October 27 in Pegasus case

A Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana is on October 27 scheduled to pronounce its decision in pleas to form an independent committee to probe into reports that the government used Israeli-based Pegasus software to spy on citizens.

On September 23, the court indicated its intention to form a committee to examine allegations. The CJI, at the time, said the court wanted to pass the orders without delay, but had been temporarily stalled because some of the members it had shortlisted for the committee were unavailable due to personal reasons.

The court on September 13 reserved the case, led by a petition filed by veteran journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar, after the government expressed reservations about filing a “detailed” affidavit responding to the allegations. The Centre had said it would be too public and compromise national security.

The petitioners had asked for an affidavit from the Cabinet Secretary or for the court to form a committee led by a sitting judge to probe the snooping controversy.

A Bench of Chief Justice Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli made it clear that there would be no more “beating around the bush” in the issue.

The CJI had said the court had given the government a fair opportunity to file a detailed affidavit in order to get a clear idea of its stand in the Pegasus case.

“We thought the government would file a counter-affidavit… now we will pass our interim orders,” Chief Justice Ramana had remarked.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Mr. Ram and Mr. Kumar, had found the government’s refusal to file a detailed affidavit “unbelievable”.

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, for the government, had reasoned that a public discourse on whether a particular software was used or not would alert terrorists. He had urged the court to allow the government to form a committee of “domain experts” who would look into the allegations of snooping orchestrated against citizens, including journalists, activists, Ministers, parliamentarians, among others.

The Solicitor-General had assured the court that the committee members would have “no relationship” with the government and would place their report before the Supreme Court.

“The committee report will have to withstand the Supreme Court’s judicial scrutiny… I am not averse to an enquiry. The government takes individuals’ plea of violation of their privacy seriously. It has to be gone into, it must be gone into… It is the feeling of the government that such an issue cannot be placed on affidavit. It has to be gone through by a committee. It concerns national security,” Mr. Mehta had submitted.

He had said the government could not afford to “sensationalise” such an “important” issue. He objected to assertions by the petitioners that the “government is denying protection to its own citizens” or was “assaulting democracy”.

Justice Kant had put matters in perspective by observing that while the court was equally concerned about national security, it could not turn a deaf ear to concerns about privacy raised by citizens.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 9:06:40 AM |

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