SC forms commitee to probe ‘falsity, discover truth’ in Pegasus row

Noting there is no clear stand of the Centre on the Pegasus spyware case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday formed a three-member committee to probe the “falsity and discover the truth” in the matter. The Supreme Court Wednesday formed a three-member committee to oversee a technical committee comprising of three members, including those who are experts in cyber security, digital forensics, networks and hardware, which will probe Pegasus spyware case.

New Delhi [India] : A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli asked a three-member committee, supervised by retired judge Justice R V Raveendran, to examine the allegations thoroughly and expeditiously and place a report before the court. The court will hear the matter again after eight weeks.
The Technical Committee shall comprise Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dr Prabaharan P, Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste.
The apex court in its remark said, “The present batch of Writ Petitions raise an Orwellian concern, about the alleged possibility of utilizing modern technology to hear what you hear, see what you see and to know what you do.”
“At the outset, certain nuances of the right to privacy in India- its facets and importance, need to be discussed,” the court said.
“Having regard to the importance of the protection of journalistic sources for press freedom in a democratic society and the potential chilling effect that snooping techniques may have, this Court’s task in the present matter, where certain grave allegations of infringement of the rights of the citizens of the country have been raised, assumes great significance,” it added.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court that it was willing to set up a committee of independent experts to examine all aspects of the alleged Pegasus snooping row. It had maintained that what software was used for an interception in the interest of national security can’t be open for public debate.
The government had also contended that it is willing to place the details of surveillance before the expert committee proposed to be constituted by it to examine the issues and the committee can give a report to the Supreme Court.
The petitioners’ lawyers had repeatedly told the Bench that the Central government has evaded answering the question if it or any of its agencies have ever used the Pegasus spyware and urged the court to direct the government to come clean on this issue.
There are many pleas filed before the top court by senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) and advocate ML Sharma, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya, seeking inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the top court to investigate the alleged snooping.
Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shatakshi, who are reported to be on the potential list of snoop targets of Pegasus spyware, had also approached the top court along with The Editors Guild of India (EGI) among others.
The plea said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by the Supreme Court in the KS Puttaswamy case (2017).
In July, names of over 40 Indian journalists appeared on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware, according to a report published in The Wire.

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