Will pass order without Centre's affidavit: SC reserves Pegasus judgment
The Supreme Court Monday reserved interim orders on a batch of petitions in the Pegasus surveillance case. The central government notably expressed its reluctance to file an affidavit in the case, after seeking an adjournment during the last hearing to seek more time to file an affidavit. The top court said that it will pass an order in the matter without the Centre's affidavit.
SC was hearing batch of petitions seeking probe
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team. The petitions include those filed by Advocate ML Sharma, journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, the Editors Guild of India, five Pegasus targets, among others.
Facade created that government isn't telling the truth: Centre
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that whether the Centre used Pegasus cannot be debated in affidavits, citing national security issues. He argued that the government should be allowed to form a committee of experts to look into the matter. "A facade has been created that government is not telling the truth, but it's not like that," he said.
'Not interested to know about national interest issues'
The court said, "We also don't want security issues to be put here. Presumably, a committee has been formed, and then the report will be submitted here." It added, "We are not interested to know about national interest issues, but we are only on the face of allegations that some software was used to snoop certain citizens like lawyers etc."
You have 2-3 days: SC to Centre
Further, the court said, "We had given a fair opportunity to the Centre to make a statement. Now they don't want to file an affidavit. So, we will pass an order like that." It added, "We reserve the orders. This is for interim orders. You have two-three days, Mr. Mehta. If you have any rethinking, you can mention before this court."
On fundamental rights, state has to reveal all facts: Petitioner
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal—appearing for one of the petitioners—argued, "When it is about fundamental rights, Centre cannot be an adversary and state has to reveal all the facts and provide all information to petitioner." "Centre should have taken action against NSO and Pegasus. Have they lodged an FIR? Have they tried to find out the truth? Central emergency response team could've looked into it."
'This is beyond IT Act or Telegraph Act'
Senior advocate Shyam Divan—appearing for another petitioner—argued, "...Pegasus is not only surveillance mechanism, but also an implant mechanism which can be used to implant false data. This is beyond IT Act or Telegraph Act. If this is happening, the Centre has to be vitally concerned."