July 25, 2021 5:22:28 am
CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member John Brittas has approached the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus spyware controversy by a special investigation team (SIT).
The plea urged the court to direct the Centre to conduct an “immediate investigation through a special investigating team” into the allegations “as revealed by The Wire” news website on July 19.
Another plea seeking court-monitored SIT probe in the matter was filed by an advocate last week.
The fresh plea referred to news reports that “independent digital forensic analysis conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab on 10 Indian phones whose numbers were present in the data showed signs of either an attempted or successful Pegasus hack”. It said phones of five journalists “were given for analysis in Amnesty Security Lab and were found as compromised with Pegasus Spyware”.
“The Pegasus Spyware allegations gives two inference — it was done by the Indian Government or by a foreign agency,” the writ petition said. “If it is done by the Indian Government it is done in an unauthorised manner. The spending of sovereign amount for personal and political interests of the ruling party cannot be permitted.”
It added, “If snooping is done by some foreign agency, it is an act of external aggression, which also needs to be dealt in a serious manner.”
The plea said that former Union minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Parliament on November 28, 2019 that there had been “no unauthorised interception of citizen’s phones by the government”.
“This shows that whatever snooping done in India is authorised by the Government. But any authorized snooping can be done in our country only by following the procedures of lawful interceptions mandated by laws under the provisions of Section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Section 69 of Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2000, Section 92 of CrPC and Rule 419(a) of the Indian Telegraph Rules. But there are no records to show that any authorized snooping/interception/tapping was done in India”, it said.
The plea also referred to Prasad’a successor — Ashwini Vaishnav — and said the “minister has neither denied nor admitted the snooping by spyware” and that “it is only an evasive statement from the Government”.
The alleged snooping, it said, has infringed upon people’s right to privacy and “has an impact on the actions of the individual resulting in a chilling effect on free speech and expression”.
It said that “despite the very serious nature of allegations, Government has not cared to investigate” them.
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