Supreme Court to pronounce judgment tomorrow in Pegasus spyware case

The Supreme Court had reserved its order in the matter on September 13. Last month, the apex court had said it is constituting a committee of technical experts to look into the matter.

The Supreme Court will pronounce its judgment tomorrow in a batch of petitions seeking court-monitored probe into unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software made by an Israeli firm NSO Group.

The Supreme Court had reserved its order in the matter on September 13. Last month, the apex court had said it is constituting a committee of technical experts to look into the matter. CJI Ramana had then said the order was taking time as some of the experts who the court had in mind to be part of the committee had declined to take the role citing personal difficulties.

The Centre has “unequivocally” denied all allegations regarding illegal surveillance. In a brief affidavit on August 15, it had told the Supreme Court that, nevertheless, “with a view to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised”, it would set up “a Committee of Experts in the field which will go into all aspects of the issue”.

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The petitioners however had pointed out that the Centre’s affidavit did not disclose whether it had purchased or used Pegasus or not.

Following this, the Court had sought to know if the government planned to file any additional affidavit. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre had then told the Bench that the issue was fraught with “questions of national security”, and hence it did not want to put details in a public affidavit to be filed in court and make it a matter of public debate. It had, however, offered to have the issue examined by a committee of domain experts, who would submit their report to the Court. The Solicitor General had requested the Court to allow it to set up such a panel, but this was objected to by the petitioners.

Reserving its order, the bench had said, “We are…not interested in any manner or in any way to know the issues which are concerned about the security or the defence or any other national interest issue. We are only concerned, in the face of allegations that some software was used against some particular citizens, journalists, lawyers, etc, to know whether this software has been used by the government, by any method other than permissible under the law.”

The pleas seeking an independent probe are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus. An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.

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