July 31, 2021 4:05:26 am
The Supreme Court on Friday said it would hear next week a petition seeking a probe into allegations of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware created by Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO Group.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana agreed to hear the petition after Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, mentioned it.
Seeking an urgent hearing, Sibal said the civil liberties of citizens, politicians belonging to Opposition parties, journalists and court staff were at stake as they were put under surveillance. He added that Pegasus snooping row was making waves in India and all over the world.
To this, the CJI responded that the court would hear the matter next week.
Seeking a probe by a sitting or former judge of the Supreme Court, the petitioners, Ram and Sashi Kumar, 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”.
The plea contended that surveillance/interception is justified only in cases of public emergency or in the interests 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 not taken any steps to order an investigation into the charges.
The petition also urged the court to direct the government to disclose whether any of its agencies had obtained a license for the spyware and/or employed it directly or indirectly for surveillance.
Earlier, Advocate M L Sharma and Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of the CPI(M) too had filed petitions seeking court-monitored probe into allegations of unauthorised use of Pegasus for surveillance.
Sharma’s plea cited media reports on the controversy and said “the Pegasus scandal is a matter of grave concern and a serious attack on Indian democracy, judiciary and country’s security”.
The petition by Brittas too sought a probe into the alleged spying and said the Pegasus spyware allegations give rise to 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 unauthorized manner. 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 in a serious manner”, he contended.
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