The Supreme Court on Monday slammed the government for not providing clarity on the NSO's spyware Pegasus. Chief Justice NV Ramana observed that the government is "going round and round" on the issue and said the court will "pass whatever order is required".
The Bench also consisted of Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli. The CJI said that the court was not seeking details of the national security apparatus. "We will know where we stand if you file an affidavit. We gave fair opportunity to the government to explain, but they don't want to share details on affidavit," the CJI added.
Quoting the Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the CJI said the minister had admitted in Parliament that software was used to target Indian WhatsApp users. The CJI said that the minister also admitted that tracking facilities are available openly to anyone, used not just by governments, but even by companies.
On September 7, the apex court had granted more time to the Centre to decide on filing a further response on the petitions after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that due to some difficulties he could not meet the officials concerned to take a decision on the filing of the second affidavit. The Centre had earlier filed a limited affidavit in the top court saying the pleas seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations are based on "conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material".
It had stated that the position on the issue has already been clarified in Parliament by Vaishnaw. With a view to dispelling any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and examining the issues raised, the government will constitute a committee of experts, it had said.
The pleas are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians, and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO's spyware Pegasus. An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.
With inputs from PTI
First Published: IST