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FPJ Legal: Supreme Court to set up technical expert committee to probe Pegasus snooping row

12:44 PM Sep 23, 2021 | FPJ Web Desk

The Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana, has said that the Supreme Court is setting up a Technical Expert Committee to inquire into the alleged Pegasus snooping row.

The news was revealed while Chief Justice NV Ramana, while hearing another issue, updated one of the lawyers in that case (who also represents one of the petitioners in the Pegasus hearing), as per a NDTV report.

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"We wanted to pass an order on the matter before this week... but some members we thought of considering for the (expert) committee (on Pegasus) ... for personal reasons they denied to be part of this committee. Hence the delay," the Chief Justice said. "That is why it is taking time to constitute the technical expert committee," he said, and further added that the court will finalize the members of the technical committee soon.

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"We will try to pass an order on Pegasus next week," he added.

Earlier the Supreme Court had adjourned till September 13 the hearing in a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus snooping row.

On September 13, the Centre had told the Supreme Court it does not wish to file a detailed affidavit now clarifying whether Pegasus spyware was used or not, in its response to a batch of petitions seeking independent probe into the alleged snooping.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had submitted before the top court that the government will disclose all details in connection with the Pegasus case before a panel of domain experts but not on an affidavit for national security reasons. Mehta emphasized that there are terror organizations, which better not know which software is used to combat terror etc. "It has its own pitfalls", he added.

Justice Surya Kant had also pulled up the Solicitor General for playing the national security card again and again. "Last time also the issue of national security arose and we clarified that we are not going to intervene in a way that affects national security. We asked you there are claims of individual phones being hacked...So file your affidavit on whether it was authorised."

The court is hearing as many as 12 pleas, including the one filed by the Editors Guild of India, seeking an independent probe into the matter.

An international media consortium had reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware. Earlier, during the hearing of the matter, the top court had said that allegations of Pegasus related snooping are "serious in nature" if reports on them are correct.

It had also asked the petitioners whether they had made any efforts to file a criminal complaint on this. Editors Guild of India has sought in its plea that a special investigation team be set up to conduct a probe into reported surveillance of journalists and others.

The Centre in August had told the Supreme Court there was "nothing to hide" in the alleged Pegasus snooping matter and it will constitute a committee of eminent experts to examine all the aspects related to the issue.

The Centre had earlier filed a limited, short affidavit in the apex court saying that the pleas seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations are based on "conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material".

Also Read: Pegasus row: Supreme Court reserves order on petitions seeking probe into alleged surveillance

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