Pegasus: Supreme Court asks petitioners to avoid social media debates
The Supreme Court of India today asked those seeking a probe into the Pegasus scandal to avoid participating in "parallel debates" on social media. It said the petitioners should "have faith in the system." A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has posted the matter for further hearing on Monday, after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought more time.
"Nobody should cross the limit and all will be given the opportunity in the case. We are not against debates but when the matter is in court, it should be deliberated here," the top court said on Tuesday.
Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, said Ram was trolled on social media after the last hearing on the issue. In response, the court said, "This is what we are saying. We ask questions from parties. We take both parties to task. The matter should be deliberated here and it should not be debated on social media and websites."
In the last hearing on August 5, the Supreme Court had called the allegations "serious." "No doubt, the allegations are serious, if the reports are true," the court had observed at that time. It then asked the parties to first send copies of their petitions to the government counsel. The court, however, did not issue a notice to the Centre.
The Supreme Court is hearing several petitions over the Pegasus row. One of them has been filed by journalists N Ram and Shashi Kumar, another by advocate ML Sharma, and a third by CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas. Last week, the Editors Guild of India also moved the Supreme Court over the issue. The petitioners have sought a high-level probe into the allegations.
Phone numbers of more than 300 Indian activists, journalists, Opposition leaders, among others, were hacked using the spyware program Pegasus, according to an investigation by media organizations around the world. Potential targets included Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor, among many others. Israeli company NSO Group says it only supplies the product to vetted government clients and their agencies.
The Indian government has denied any involvement in the snooping scandal. It called the allegations a "non-issue," saying there is no need to discuss them in the Parliament. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had earlier read out a statement in the Parliament, rejecting the reports. On Monday, the Defence Ministry said it had "no transaction" with the NSO Group.