Supreme Court to pass comprehensive order on Pegasus next week
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it will pass a comprehensive order on the Pegasus surveillance scandal next week. The apex court was hearing a plea challenging the West Bengal government's decision to launch a judicial probe in the matter. The case pertains to the likely surveillance of Opposition politicians, journalists, activists, and others by the central government. Here are more details.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana was hearing the plea challenged by the Global Village Foundation Public Charitable Trust. The bench said it will hear the plea next week with other petitions seeking a probe into the Pegasus case that remain pending before the Supreme Court. The court had earlier issued a notice to the central government regarding the same.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Harish Salve said the judicial probe in West Bengal should not proceed until the SC hearing next week. "I just request that in the meanwhile, let nothing happen in the inquiry," Salve told the bench. Senior advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing the West Bengal government, had initially opposed this demand.
The SC said, "We are saying that next week we will pass a comprehensive order. In the meantime, if you start an inquiry, we will have to pass an order." Singhvi assured the court that "nothing will happen" and that the state authorities will be alerted about the same. The court tagged the matter with other petitions and it will be heard next week.
Earlier, the West Bengal government had announced that it will set up a two-member commission to probe the Pegasus allegations. The commission will be headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan Lokur, and include former Calcutta HC Acting Chief Justice, Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya. The probe was announced days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew was identified as a potential Pegasus target.
Pegasus is a military-level spyware—developed by the Israeli company NSO Group—which is only made available to vetted government clients. It had made headlines in 2019 for its reported 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, activists, among others.