The Supreme Court Thursday said it is planning to set up a committee of technical experts to look into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software made by an Israeli firm NSO Group and will pronounce orders in this regard by next week.
During the hearing, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said that the matter was taking time because some of the experts it had in mind to be members of the committee had declined to be part of the team citing personal difficulties. “That is why it is taking time to set up the committee.”
The CJI added that the court will be able to finalise the members by next week and pronounce orders.
Responding to the petitions, the Centre had submitted that the the issue was fraught with questions of national security, owing to which, it did not want to put everything in a public affidavit to be filed in court and make it a matter of public debate but was willing to have it examined by a committee of domain experts who could submit their report to the court. It urged the court to allow the government to set up the committee which will go into all aspects of the matter.
The petitioners, however, opposed the government request to allow it to set up the committee.
The Supreme Court reserved its order in the matter on September 13 saying it will pronounce the same in 2-3 days.
Reserving its order, a three-judge bench headed by the CJI 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.