Pegasus case: Snooping allegations serious if true, says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the allegations emerging in the Pegasus snooping scandal are serious if they are correct. The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions that had sought a special investigation into the case. Notably, the central government has largely tried to portray the emergence of the allegations—reported globally—as a "non-issue." Here are more details.
Bench headed by CJI heard matter
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had taken up the matter. The bench was hearing petitions filed by ML Sharma; Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas; journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar; Jagdeep Chokkar; Narendra Mishra; journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh; journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; SNM Abdi; and the Editors Guild of India, according to LiveLaw.
'There is prima facie material, credibility of reports'
Ramana observed, "The allegations are serious in nature if reports in media are correct. Majority of writ petitions I can see I don't want to compare with similarities in foreign newspapers." He said there is "prima facie material as well as credibility of reports." However, it is unfortunate there was no serious concern in 2019 when the issue first came to light, he said.
Petitioners should have put more hard work: CJI
CJI Ramana criticized, "People who should have filed the writs are more knowledgeable and resourceful. They should have put more hard work to put more material." He also pointed to the fact that the petitioners claiming their phones had been hacked had made no efforts to file a police complaint. Lawyer Kapil Sibal— appearing for the petitioners—highlighted that SC registrars were also likely surveilled.
'Truth will come out'; next hearing on August 10
"Today morning we found out that even registrars of this court have their numbers in snooping list...Some members of judiciary also named," Sibal said. The CJI responded, "Don't name. The truth will come out." However, the bench could not proceed without the Centre present, the CJI noted. The matter has been posted for further hearing on August 10. No notice has been issued.
What is the Pegasus scandal?
Pegasus is military-level spyware—developed by the Israeli company NSO Group—which is only made available to vetted government clients. It also made headlines in 2019 for its use by various governments to track individuals. In July, a global consortium of media houses revealed the names of 50,000 potential surveillance targets, including 300 Indians citizens such as journalists, Opposition leaders, ministers, and activists, among others.
Pegasus case sparks uproar in Parliament
Even as the government has tried to downplay the findings, the Opposition has launched vehement protests during Parliament's Monsoon Session, demanding a discussion on the matter. However, the Centre ostensibly remains reluctant to address the Pegasus case. Apart from the petitioners, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had also ordered a judicial probe into the matter. A Parliamentary IT Panel is also probing the case.