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Updated August 18th, 2021 at 08:52 IST

Pegasus probe pleas: SC issues notice to Centre, says 'don't want national security info'

In a key development on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued notice before admission to the Centre on the pleas seeking a probe into the Pegasus snooping row. 

Reported by: Akhil Oka
Pegasus Snooping row, SC
Image: PTI/Representative Image | Image:self
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In a key development on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued notice before admission to the Centre on the pleas seeking a probe into the Pegasus snooping issue. A division bench of CJI NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant was hearing petitions filed by advocate ML Sharma, CPI MP John Brittas, Association for Democratic Reforms founder Jagdeep Chhokar, Narendra Mishra, three journalists and the Editors Guild of India. This comes a day after the Centre revealed in an affidavit that it will set up a committee of experts to investigate the matter while rubbishing the allegations.

Maintaining that the Union government has "nothing to hide", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stated that it does not want to file another affidavit as aspects of national security are involved. He stated, "The petitioners want the government to divulge which software was not used. If that happens, those who are likely to be intercepted for terrorist activities etc. may take pre-emptive or corrective steps". 

Orally responding to this, the bench stressed that it did not want the Centre to reveal anything about national security. At the same time, it highlighted that this was a case where civilians had alleged hacking of their phones. Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Kapil Sibal argued that they only wanted to know whether the Union government has used the Pegasus spyware. Thereafter, CJI Ramana stated that the SC will take a call on the future course of action after perusing the fresh response of the Centre. The matter will be listed for hearing after 10 days. 

The Pegasus row

The controversy came to the fore when French non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International accessed a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers that were allegedly targeted by Pegasus. As per media reports, the Pegasus spyware targeted over 300 Indian mobile numbers including that of 40 journalists, businesspersons, one constitutional authority, three opposition leaders and two sitting Ministers in the Union government. The database also allegedly contained the numbers of activists who are accused and incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Making a statement on this issue in Rajya Sabha on July 22, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated, "A highly sensational story was published by a web portal on the 18th July 2021. Many over-the-top allegations have been made around this story. Honourable Chairman Sir, the press reports have appeared a day before the Monsoon session of Parliament. This cannot be a coincidence, honourable Chairman Sir. In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties including in the Supreme Court". 

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Published August 18th, 2021 at 08:52 IST

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