New Delhi [India]: Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and four others, who are reported to be in the potential list of snoop targets using Pegasus spyware, have filed the petition in the Supreme Court seeking direction to declare that the installation or use of spyware is “illegal and unconstitutional”.
Journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh, and Ipsa Shatakshi approached the top court saying that the unauthorised use of surveillance by government agencies have violated their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. They sought that direction be issued to the Central government to produce and disclose to the Supreme Court all materials and documents with respect to all investigation, authorization, and orders pertaining to the use of Pegasus on them.
“Issue a direction directing the Respondents (government) to take suitable steps to protect Indian citizens from the use of cyberweapons and malware such as Pegasus,” the plea stated.
It also sought direction from the government of India to put in place a judicial oversight mechanism to deal with any complaints on illegal breaches of privacy and hacking and punish all government officials responsible for such breaches.
Thakurta, in his plea, alleged that they were subjected to deeply intrusive surveillance and hacking by the Government of India or some other third party.
The plea filed through advocate Prateek Chadha said that forensic examination of their mobile phones done by Amnesty International has revealed that their mobile phones were targeted using the Pegasus.
The unauthorised surveillance through such sophisticated software will create a “chilling effect” on the fundamental right to free speech, constitute a blatant violation of the fundamental right to privacy, and will deter informants and whistleblowers from coming forward and bringing to light wrongdoing at various levels of government and as such have a detrimental effect on transparency in governance all across India, the plea stated.
Currently, there are three Public Interest Litigation (PILs) pending before the top court seeking a court-monitored probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists. This is the first petition filed by persons allegedly affected by Pegasus snooping.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana will hear the PILs on August 5.