A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant on Thursday, August 5, will hear a clutch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into Pegasus snoopgate, reported news agency ANI.
Senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, CPM MP John Brittas, and advocate ML Sharma have filed petitions in Supreme Court seeking an inquiry into the reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.
The petition filed by
journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar seek an independent probe by a sitting or a retired judge into the Pegasus snooping matter.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana on Friday took note of senior advocate Kapil Sibal's submissions that the petition, which has been numbered after filing with the apex court registry, needed an urgent hearing in view of its wide ramifications.
"Direct the Government of India to disclose if the Government of India or any of its agencies have obtained license(s) for Pegasus spyware and/or used/employed it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner whatsoever. Issue direction of constituting an inquiry to investigate the extent of surveillance on Indian citizens using the Pegasus spyware and other entities reponsible for it, headed by sitting or retired judge of this court duly nominated by this court," stated the plea.
The plea further said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy case.
The targeted hacking, interception of inter alia journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), added the petition.
The petitioners have claimed that investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 Indians, including journalists, lawyers, government ministers, opposition politicians, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists, have been identified as "potential targets" for surveillance using Pegasus software.
Earlier, advocate ML Sharma and Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of the Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) had filed PILs on the issue.
Brittas has sought a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on people. The petition said that despite the very serious nature of the allegations, the government has not cared to investigate into the issue.
Advocate Sharma sought direction for an SIT probe on whether the Union government bought the Pegasus spyware following due procedure of law and whether and how it had been used since the purchase.
Sharma said that in the interest of justice and fair play and for the protection of the life and liberty of the citizens of India, the Supreme Court should pass direction to set up a SIT under the supervision of this court for investigating the Pegasus scandal and to prosecute all accused persons, ministers for buying Pegasus and snooping on citizens of India, including judges, opposition leaders and political persons, activist, advocates and others.
An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO's Pegasus spyware.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)Pegasus snooping: Opposition divided on jointly moving SC for an investigation in the scandal
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)