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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Pegasus spyware row: Senior journalists move Supreme Court, seek probe by sitting or former judge

The plea urged the court to direct the government to disclose whether any of its agencies had obtained licence for spyware and/or employed it directly or indirectly for surveillance.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 28, 2021 3:10:56 am
N RamVeteran journalists Sashi Kumar and N Ram (file photos)

Senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar have approached the Supreme Court seeking investigation by a sitting or former judge of the court into allegations of use of Pegasus spyware for “surveillance” of journalists, activists and others.

The duo said in their plea that such “targeted surveillance” using a “military-grade spyware” is “grossly disproportionate invasion of the right to privacy”.

It said, “The Pegasus hack is a direct attack on communicational, intellectual and informational privacy, and critically endangers the meaningful exercise of privacy in these contexts.”

It said that surveillance/interception is justified only in cases of public emergency, or in the interest of public safety, and the existence of such conditions must be inferred reasonably and cannot be determined solely on the assessment of the government. It added that the government had taken any steps to order an investigation into the serious charges.

The plea urged the court to direct the government to disclose whether any of its agencies had obtained licence for spyware and/or employed it directly or indirectly for surveillance.

Earlier, an advocate, M L Sharma, and Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of CPI(M) had filed petitions seeking court-monitored probe into the allegations of unauthorised use of Pegasus for surveillance.

Sharma’s plea cited media reports on the controversy and said that the “Pegasus scandal is a matter of grave concern and a serious attack upon Indian democracy, judiciary and country’s security”.

The petition by Brittas said the allegations give two inferences — that it was done by the Indian government or by a foreign agency. “If it is done by the Indian government it is done in an unauthorised manner,” the Rajya Sabha MP stated in the petition. “The spending of sovereign amount for personal and political interests of the ruling party cannot be permitted. If snooping is done by some foreign agency, it is an act of external aggression, which also needs to be dealt with in a serious manner.”

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