The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Government of India based on multiple petitions seeking a probe into the controversial Pegasus spyware scandal, Live Law reported.
The matter has been listed after 10 days.
Several journalists and politicians including N Ram, Sashi Kumar, CPI (M) leader and journalist John Brittas, Jagdeep Chokkar, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Rupesh Kumar Singh, SNM Abidi, Narendra Mishra, TMC leader Yashwant Sinha along with the Editor’s Guild of India filed the petition.
The petition sought a court-monitored inquiry by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) or a judicial probe into the alleged spying of several activists, politicians, journalists and constitutional bodies using the Pegasus spyware.
In one of the biggest investigative journalism stories of 2021, it came to light in July that the phone numbers of at least 40 Indian journalists, as well as several politicians, activists and lawyers were part of a list of 50,000 mobile phone numbers across the globe that were targeted by the Pegasus spyware developed by a private Israeli firm. The investigation was carried out by a group of 15 news organisations across the globe, including The Washington Post, The Guardian, and The Wire.
The Pegasus Project was conceived by the France-based non-profit journalism organisation Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International.
The powerful spyware tool Pegasus was developed by NSO Group, a private Israeli security firm that is a worldwide leader in the field of private surveillance. The spyware, once activated in a phone, can access and extract all personal data, chats, contact numbers, call logs, and activate the microphone to eavesdrop on all conversations.
The hearing in the case was earlier adjourned on Monday to verify if the union government was willing to file an additional affidavit after the petitioners pointed out that the “limited affidavit” filed previously had evaded the question of whether the government had used the spyware.
While stating that the government has “nothing to hide,” Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta told the court that no additional affidavit will be filed in the issue citing national security reasons.
However, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, said, “We don’t want them to give any information as to security of the State. They must reply if Pegasus as a technology was used.”
Post this, the court said it was issuing notice to the government and added that it would consider what can be done.