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legal | IST

Pegasus snooping row highlights: Supreme Court appoints expert committee to probe allegations of illegal surveillance

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SC said Centre can’t be allowed a free pass every time national security issue is raised. Judiciary can't shy away from addressing issue at the very mention of national security, it said.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a committee of experts to inquire into the alleged use of Israeli spyware Pegasus for surveillance of Indian citizens. A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said the three-member committee will be headed by former apex court judge RV Raveendran.
Citing national security, the Centre had refused to file a detailed affidavit in the matter. 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..
Here are the latest updates on Pegasus snooping row:
  • The Congress on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court order of setting up an expert committee on the Pegasus spyware issue, and said it has negated alleged attempts of the government to evade and divert attention in the name of national security. "Pseudo-Nationalism is the last refuge of cowardly fascists everywhere," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter. "Welcome SC order setting up Special Committee to examine misuse of spyware Pegasus despite Modi Government's embarrassing attempts to evade, avoid and divert attention in the name of National Security. Satyamev Jayate," he said.
  • Supreme Court mentioned some compelling circumstances that  weighed with them to pass such an order:
  • Right to privacy and freedom of speech are alleged to be impacted, which needs to be examined.
    The entire citizenry is affected by such allegations due to the potential chilling effect.
    No clear stand taken by the Respondent-Union of India regarding actions taken by it.
    Seriousness accorded to the allegations by foreign countries and involvement of foreign parties.
    Possibility that some foreign authority, agency or private entity is involved in placing citizens of this country under surveillance.
    Allegations that the Union or State Governments are party to the rights’ deprivations of the citizens.
    Limitation under writ jurisdiction to delve into factual aspects. For instance, even the question of usage of the technology on citizens, which is the jurisdictional fact, is disputed and requires further factual examination.
    • Supreme Court said it will next hear the case in eight weeks
    • Supreme Court constitutes a committee, led by retired SC Judge RV Raveendran
      • SC said Centre can’t be allowed a free pass every time national security issue is raised. Judiciary can't shy away from addressing issue at the very mention of national security, it said.
      • #Pegasus Case- Intelligence agencies are essential to fight against terrorism, may invite violation of privacy, but must be only when it is absolutely necessary, says Supreme Court
      • The apex court had observed orally that it would set up a technical expert committee to inquire into the matter and pass an interim order on the pleas seeking an independent probe into the grievances of the alleged surveillance of certain eminent Indians by hacking their phones using Israeli firm NSO's spyware, Pegasus. The top court's observations on constituting the committee assume significance in view of the Centre's statement that it would set up an expert panel on its own to look into the entire issue.
      • The apex court had said it would pronounce order in a few days and asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, to mention the case if the government had a re-think about filing a detailed affidavit. The bench had said that it only wanted to know from the Centre, which expressed unwillingness to file a detailed affidavit citing national security, whether Pegasus was used to allegedly spy on individuals and if it was done lawfully.