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Elgaar Parishad: NIA files plea for phones of seven accused; will hand them over to SC panel on Pegasus

The NIA on Saturday moved a plea before the special court seeking mobile instruments for onward submission to the technical committee for inspection.

The NIA has filed an application before the special court in the Elgaar Parishad case, seeking seized mobile phones of seven accused to submit them to the Supreme Court-appointed committee.

THE NATIONAL Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed an application before the special court in the Elgaar Parishad case, seeking seized mobile phones of seven accused to submit them to the Supreme Court-appointed committee which is looking into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using Pegasus spyware, after the seven requested the committee to call for their devices for inspection.

The NIA on Saturday moved a plea before the special court seeking mobile instruments for onward submission to the technical committee for inspection. Special Judge Dinesh E Kothalikar directed that the copy of NIA’s plea be served upon the accused or their advocates. The court is likely to hear the plea on Tuesday.

Applications to the committee for submission of their devices were sent by Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Hany Babu, Shoma Sen, Anand Teltumbde and P Varavara Rao, stating that they suspect their devices were infected by Pegasus spyware. The seven — some through their lawyers and family members — had written to the committee
that they want to submit their phones but since the devices are in the custody of the central agency, they are not in a position to make the submission themselves. Following this, the technical committee wrote to the NIA last month, seeking submission of the devices in order to make copies of them and inspect them. A total of 26 devices seized from the seven accused are part of the evidence submitted to the special court by the NIA.

The mobile phones of the accused were seized at the time of their arrests by Pune City Police, which initially probed the case, and then the NIA, which took over the probe in 2020.

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The Supreme Court-appointed committee had last month issued a public notice calling upon people who had ‘reasonable cause’ to suspect that their mobile instrument had been infected/compromised due to specific usage of Pegasus, a spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, to come before the committee with reasons as to why they believe their devices may have been infected.

The public notice said that on receiving such information, if the committee is of the view that the reasons for suspicion of the instrument being infected with the malware require a further investigation, it may call upon the person to produce the mobile instrument for examination/investigation and also furnish a statement relating to the particulars of the instrument and the person submitting it.

The seven accused had made a representation before the committee, stating that they wanted to submit their devices for an examination, with causes as to why they suspect their devices were infected with spyware. Wilson stated that last year, through his defence team, a cloned copy of his device was given for an independent forensic analysis. The representation referred to the report by a US-based forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, which said that his computer was ‘infected with a malware’ through an e-mail two years before his arrest on June 6, 2018. In December, another report by the firm said two back-ups of his iPhone had traces showing infection by Pegasus.

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Bharadwaj, in her representation, has said that while she was in jail, she came to know that in July 2021, her two phone numbers were in a leaked list of Indian phone numbers on which Pegasus might have been inserted. Others made similar submissions before the committee about their seized devices.

First published on: 08-02-2022 at 01:32 IST
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