SC constitutes a 3-member expert committee to probe Pegasus snooping allegations


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Pegasus spyware case: The Supreme Court on October 27, 2021 ordered the constitution of a three-member expert committee to probe targeted surveillance of journalists, politicians using Pegasus spyware.

The apex court said that there has been no specific denial by Centre in the issue, thus it has no option but to accept the submissions of petitioner prima facie and appoint the independent expert committee.

The court has asked the expert committee to examine the allegations thoroughly and place the report before the court. The matter will be listed for hearing after 8 weeks.

Expert committee composition

The three-member committee will be headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran and the other two members include 1976 batch IPS officer Alok Joshi and Dr. Sundeep Oberoi.

The apex court stated that it has chosen renowned experts to be a part of the three-member Committee.

The three members Technical Committee shall comprise the Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar, Dr. Naveen Kumar Chaudhary; Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Professor Dr. Prabaharan P. and Institute Chair Associate Professor of IIT Bombay Dr. Ashwin Anil Gumaste.

Compelled to form expert committee: SC

The Supreme Court stated that the expert committee has been formed to probe the falsity and discover the truth in Pegasus row.

The Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said in his judgment that the court is compelled to determine the truth and get to the bottom of the issue.

Reasons why SC has ordered a probe into Pegasus snooping allegations

1. To examine Right to a Privacy violation and freedom of speech, which are alleged to be impacted. 

2. No clear denial by the central government or explanation.

3. Serious concern of involvement of some foreign agency, authority or private entity in surveilling citizens of India. 

SC judgement on Pegasus spyware case: Key Highlights

The CJI began pronouncing order into the Pegasus spyware case, by reading George Orwell’s quote-“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

The court noted that some of the petitioners are direct victims of Pegasus and it is incumbent upon the Centre to seriously consider the use of such a technology.

The apex court highlighted that we live in the era of information and must recognise that while technology is important, it is important to safeguard right to privacy, not only for journalists but for all citizens.

The court further stated that when initially petitions were filed the court was not satisfied with the petitions that were filed based on newspaper reports, however, other petitions were also filed by those who were direct victims of the snooping. 

Further, the court observed in the judgement that indiscriminate spying of citizens can’t be allowed in a democracy except in accordance with the law.

The court highlighted during the judgement how the Union of India did not provide clarity and had it made its stand clear it would have been a different situation. 

The court had earlier issued a notice to the Union of India taking note of the seriousness of the issue. The court said that it gave the centre enough time to disclose all information regarding the Pegasus spyware.

It said that it had assured the centre that it would not push it to provide any information that would affect the national security concerns of the country. 

However, the centre had placed on record only a limited affidavit that does not give clarity on their stand or on the facts of the matter. 

What is Pegasus Spyware case?

A French non-profit media group, Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, alleged on July 18, 2021 that an Israeli spyware Pegasus may have been used to spy on around 300 Indians, including over 40 journalists, scientists, three opposition leaders, government officials, constitutional authority and two cabinet ministers in the Central government.

 





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