Pegasus issue: SC reserves verdict after Centre says it won’t file detailed affidavit

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The Supreme Court reserved its judgement on a batch of pleas seeking an independent probe into the alleged surveillance of certain people using the Pegasus spyware.

The Centre told the Supreme Court it would not file a detailed affidavit on petitions seeking inquiry into the alleged use of the Pegasus spyware. The Centre said it would constitute a committee of experts to look into charges of unauthorised surveillance.

“Existence of whether a particular software was used or not cannot become part of an affidavit or subject of public discourse. Target groups, terror groups should not know what software is being used,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court.

“We will set up a committee of domain experts. The petitioners who say their numbers were put under interception can be considered by the committee. The committee report will be placed before your lordships,” the Solicitor General said.

“We reserve orders. This is for interim orders. You have two-three days, Mr. Mehta. If you do any rethink, you can mention it before this court,” CJI NV Ramana said.

Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for senior journalist N Ram, said it was the duty of the Centre to reveal all facts and information available to court. Sibal said both the “government and petitioner have to be the eyes and ears of the court to uphold fundamental rights”.

“The state is now saying we will not tell you anything. Telling whether the Pegasus software was used or not is not detrimental to national security. If Pegasus was used and the target was ordinary citizens, it’s a very serious situation,” Sibal said.

“They have accepted in Parliament that the spyware has been used. Why have they taken no action since 2019? Have they launched an investigation? Filed an FIR? It is unbelievable that the govt of India says I will not tell the court,” Sibal further said.

On September 7, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana granted more time to the Centre to decide if it intended to file any additional affidavit in the matter.

The Centre had earlier filed a limited affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying the pleas seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus issue were based on “conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material”.

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