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Sunday, December 05, 2021

Explained: Who are the members of SC-appointed committee to probe Pegasus?

The Supreme Court said it was "an extremely uphill task" to find experts "who are free from prejudices, are independent and competent".

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2021 8:35:53 am
From top left, clockwise: Justice Ravendran, Alok Joshi, Sundeep Oberoi, Dr Chaudhary, Dr Gumaste and Dr Prabaharan P (Illustrations: Suvajit Dey)

A three-member committee has been appointed by the Supreme Court to look into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using Pegasus, a spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO Group.

The committee members are Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar; Dr Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala; and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

It will be supervised by retired judge Justice R V Raveendran. The former Supreme Court Justice is a highly-respected member of the law community, and was recently referred by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana as “one of the legends who have increased the prestige of the Supreme Court of India”. In the order, the Court asked Justice Raveendran to “oversee the functioning of the Committee with respect to the methodology to be adopted, procedure to be followed, enquiry and investigation that is carried out and preparation of the report.”

Justice Raju Varadarajulu Raveendran
Retired Supreme Court judge

Will oversee functioning of 3-member Technical Committee on methodology, procedure, and inquiry and investigation; can take assistance any serving/retired officer or expert.

Justice Raveendran served as judge of the Supreme Court from September 9, 2005 to October 15, 2011. Before that, he was Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.

During his tenure in the SC, Justice Raveendran delivered important judgments in matters relating to constitutional law, reservation, human rights, and education.

In a well-known matter, a Constitution Bench comprising Justice Raveendran condemned the tendency to change Governors upon a change of regime at the Centre. The Bench ruled that “the Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he/she is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union government or the party in power at the Centre. Nor can he/she be removed on the ground that the Union government has lost confidence in him/her”.

Justice Raveendran was part of the R M Lodha Committee appointed by the SC in 2015 to reform the BCCI. In August 2017, Justice Raveendran turned down a request from the SC to oversee the NIA probe into the conversion of Kerala resident Akhila to Islam, after which she assumed the name Hadiya, and her wedding with a Muslim man, Shefin Jahan.

Justice Raveendran’s book, Anomalies in Law & Justice: Writings Related to Law & Justice, was released by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana in June this year.

Speaking to The Indian Express from Bengaluru, Justice Raveendran said “it will be his endeavour to oversee the functioning of the Technical Committee in the manner directed” by the SC. He declined to comment further.

Alok Joshi
Former chief of R&AW and NTRO

Will assist Justice Raveendran in overseeing the work of the Technical Committee.

A retired IPS officer of the 1976 batch, Joshi served as R&AW Director from 2012-14. Before that, he was special secretary in R&AW and joint director in the Intelligence Bureau. He was also chairman of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which deals with a range of matters from hi-tech surveillance to cyber security.

Dr Sundeep Oberoi
Global head of cybersecurity services, TCS

Will assist Justice Raveendran in overseeing the work of the Technical Committee.

A globally recognized cyber security expert, Dr Oberoi is chairman of a joint technical committee of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission. Ensuring data confidentiality and privacy is one of Dr Oberoi areas of expertise, which dovetails with aspects arising out of Pegasus issue.

TECHNICAL COMMITTEE

Prof (DR) Naveen Kumar Chaudhary
Dean, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar

An expert in cyber security, e-governance, digital forensics, network security, and communication engineering, Prof Chaudhary is also a member of a UGC panel on developing an ecosystem for cyber security in higher education institutions in India. Prof Chaudhary received the Chairman, Chief of Staff Committee Commendation Award for drafting a visionary document on space technology capacity building in 2015.

DR Ashwin Anil Gumaste
Chair, Associate Professor (Computer Science & Engineering), IIT-Bombay

Dr Gumaste received the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology in 2018. Among his areas of specialisation are optical networks, broadband communication, and end-to-end networks. Dr Gumaste played a critical role in the development of carrier ethernet switch routers, a product that was commercialised by the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd as part of a major technology transfer agreement by IIT Bombay.

DR Prabaharan P.
Professor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham School of Engineering

Dr Prabaharan specialises in cybersecurity, and has published several papers on deep malware detection, intrusion detection, and ransomware detection. Last December, he was awarded the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Academy Excellence Award 2018.

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