Investigating the WhatsApp hack — Parliament probe might trump the judiciary

Investigating the WhatsApp hack  — Parliament probe might trump the judiciary

  • India’s IT Ministry will have its Parliamentary Committee will be taking up the WhatsApp hack on November 20.
  • Meanwhile RSS activist, KN Govindacharya, is trying to get the Supreme Court’s attention.
  • Lawyers feel the petition will only result in the government citing national security and sealed cover.

The WhatsApp security breach has caught the attention of India’s IT ministry. A Standing Parliamentary Committee (SPC) will be looking into the incident on November 20.

The chairman of the committee explained that there had been a number of requests for comments on the disclosure of ‘snooping on Indians’, according to the Indian Express.

Meanwhile, a right wing activist from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), KN Govindacharya, is trying to draw the attention of the Supreme Court to this matter. He filed a petition asking FIRs to be registered against Facebook, Whatsapp and the NSO Group.

But going to the Supreme Court might be redundant, according to lawyer Gautam Bhatai. “In recent times, the Supreme Court’s own record in matter where facts are still to established has been the strongest. There exist other institutions — including Parliamentary Committees — who have already stated that surveillance issues fall within their remit,” he tweeted.

In the name of national security

Facebook filed a lawsuit against the Israeli security firm, the NSO Group, claiming that the privacy of 1,400 users was compromised by spyware — Pegasus. Overall, 121 Indian users were reportedly hacked — of which two dozen were activists, journalists and lawyers.

None of them have come forward to file their own FIRs yet.

Some people believe that it’s not a strong case to begin with. “This is a case that is just asking for the government to come to court and shout “national security”+”sealed cover” as they have been known to do at the drop of a hat,” tweeted Bhatia.

In January 2006, Amar Singh — a politician — filed a petition with the Supreme Court that his phones were being tapped. At the time, the Supreme Court barred the media from publishing any excerpts from these leaks. Five years later, the case was dismissed stating that Singh suppressed facts relevant to the case.

In 2008, the government authorised the tax department to tap Nira Radia, a corporate lobbyist, for 120 days. In May 2009, that time frame was extended by another 120 days. Parts of these tapes were then leaked to the media — including excerpts that including details of the 2G scam.

Rata Tata, then chairman of the Tata Group, along with NGO Center for Public Interest Litigation, filed a petition to restrict the circulation of these tapes because it violated his right to privacy.

That petition is still pending judgement.

“It is a collusive litigation initiated by #govindacharya. Strategy being, file a weak case hovering round frivolous irrelevant averments so as to ensure its dismissal by court. The dismissal can then be quoted by the wrongdoers as 'vindication of their innocence',” tweeted former civil servant, NN Ojha.