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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pegasus row: Centre cites national security, says won’t file detailed affidavit; SC reserves order

“We have nothing to hide. But there are issues, there are sensitive issues involved where certain things are not placed in public domain by way of an affidavit... The Committee will be answerable to your Lordships,” Mehta told the SC bench.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 13, 2021 3:12:46 pm
The plea said the petitioners had registered and appeared for JEE (Advanced) exam conducted in September last year, but could not perform well due to COVID-19 pandemic. File.

The Supreme Court Monday reserved its interim order on petitions seeking a probe into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software, with the Centre reiterating that it was ready to have all questions gone into by a committee of experts, but did not want to put it in public domain for reasons of national security.

“We are reserving and will pass an interim order. It might take 2-3 days to pass the orders,” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said after hearing the petitioners and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

“We have nothing to hide. But there are issues, there are sensitive issues involved where certain things are not placed in public domain by way of an affidavit. But respecting the privacy of individuals, on its own the government is offering that let it be gone into. And the report comes before your Lordships that ensures credibility. The Committee will be answerable to your Lordships,” Mehta told the bench also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.

The bench pointed out that it had already clarified that it did not want to know info that concerns national security.

The CJI remarked that the only thing the court wanted to know in the face of the allegations is if there has been any interception using methods other than those allowed under the law. In this connection, he also referred to the statement given in Parliament by former IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad about some WhatsApp users being affected by the alleged use of Pegasus.

Mehta said he was not against the issues being looked into. “Making this a part of a public affidavit or public discourse will not be in national interest,” he said, urging the court to allow the government to constitute a committee which will go into the allegations of violations of privacy, and those who suspect their privacy has been compromised can give their device to it for examination.

Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal opposed the prayer to allow the government to set up the committee. Stating that it was the allegation by the petitioners that the government is involved, he said, “Your Lordships should not allow the government to set up the Committee.”

The CJI told Mehta the committee report could also come in public domain.

Mehta replied that the court could take a call on that depending on its assessment of the contents of the report.

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