A panel headed by a retired judge will probe if the Indian government used Pegasus to spy on journalists and other prominent citizens

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A panel headed by a retired judge will probe if the Indian government used Pegasus to spy on journalists and other prominent citizens
BCCL
  • The court has turned down the appeal to allow the government to form the probe committee.
  • “Justice Should not only be done but seen to be done,” the judge said while dismissing the government’s request.
  • A three-member committee will be headed by RV Raveendran, a former judge at the Supreme Court.
  • ‘Request the committee to expeditiously probe the matter,” the court said in its verdict today.
The Supreme Court of India has set up a three-member panel headed by former Supreme Court judge RV Raveendran to probe whether Pegasus software was used by the Indian government to spy on journalists and other prominent citizens who were critics of the current administration.

The apex court turned down the Narendra Modi government’s appeal to be allowed to set up the probe committee. “Justice should not only be done but seen to be done,” Chief Justice Ramana said.

Earlier in September, CJI Ramana had orally said that it would set up a technical committee to investigate the allegations by the journalists, activists and scholars. The verdict was delayed as the members of the technical committee were unavailable at that time.

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These are some of the other highlights from the Supreme Court verdict in the Pegasus case today, as reported by Bar and Bench:
  • Right to privacy violation needs to be examined.
  • There has been no specific denial by the centre. Thus, we have no option but to accept the submissions of the petitioner and appoint an expert committee whose function will be overseen by the Supreme Court.
  • There is no clear stand from the government. There is a serious concern of foreign agency involvement by surveilling Indians.
  • The Solicitor General had suggested that many such reports are motivated. However, such omnibus oral submissions cannot be accepted.
  • It is also about freedom of the press and the important role played by them. Such technology may have a chilling effect on the press.
According to reports, the Pegasus spyware, which is developed by Israel’s NSO group, could have been used to spy on journalists, opposition leaders, ministers, lawyers and others. This claim was refuted by IT minister Ashwini Vaishnav in the lower house of the parliament, Lok Sabha, saying any form of illegal surveillance was not possible.

In the hearing on September 13, the Centre was not willing to file a detailed affidavit in the matter as it was concerned over national security. The Israeli group claimed its clients were “vetted governments” without identifying them.
A panel headed by a retired judge will probe if the Indian government used Pegasus to spy on journalists and other prominent citizens
Pegasus is accused of hacking into the phones of at least 180 journalists around the world, of which 40 are notable Indian personalities.

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The first hearing took place on August 5, when the Supreme Court observed that the allegations were serious and said that “the truth must come out”.

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