[BREAKING] Supreme Court issues notice to Central govt on petitions seeking probe into Pegasus Snoopgate; Govt says web portals weaving narrative

The Central government told the Court that it is willing to give details regarding the controversy to an expert committee but not make it public before the Court since that could have national security implications.
Surya Kant, CJI Ramana, Aniruddha bose, Pegasus
Surya Kant, CJI Ramana, Aniruddha bose, Pegasus

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Central government in the batch of petitions seeking probe into the Pegasus snoopgate.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose also said that the Bench needs to deliberate further on how to proceed with the matter and adjourned the hearing for ten days.

"We need to think how to go ahead with the matter. Presently we will issue notice and list after sometime," the Bench said.

The Court, therefore proceeded to issue formal notice to the government.

"Matter to be listed after 10 days. Meanwhile further course of action will be deliberated upon," the Court said in its order.

The Court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking various prayers including a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe, a judicial inquiry and directions to the government to reveal details about whether it had used the Pegasus software to spy on citizens.

When the matter was taken up for hearing on Tuesday, the Central government told the Supreme Court that it is willing to give details regarding controversy to an expert committee but not make it public before the Court since that could have national security implications.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta submitted that such an expert committee can then place its report before the top court.

"We can divulge to committee of experts and the expert body will be a neutral body. The committee will place its report before the court. But how can we senationalise the issue? Would you as a constitutional court expect such issues to be divulged before the court and put it up for public debate," he said.

The demands made by petitioners before the Supreme Court are issues which have bearing on national security, the government maintained.

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Mehta further said that if the government makes it public on whether Pegasus was used or not, it will help terrorists and other similar elements to take preventive steps.

"Govt does not mind saying it before an expert group. Suppose a terrorist organisation uses technology to communicate with sleeper cells and we say we are using Pegasus they will modulate the apparatus in such a way that it is not Pegasus compatible," the SG said.

Mehta also alleged that some web portal are weaving narrative on the issue.

"I am not saying I won't disclose (details) to anyone. I am only saying I wont tell this publicly. We can tell be before the expert committee," Mehta maintained.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court on Monday, the Central government had revealed that it will constitute a Committee of Experts to look into the Pegasus spyware scandal.

Yesterday, the Court took note of the fact that the affidavit filed by the Central government did not reveal whether or not it has used the spyware.

"We see you don't want to take a stand...Whatever you want to say why don't you file an affidavit? We will also get a clear picture," the Court had suggested to SG Tushar Mehta.

Countering these arguments, SG Mehta submitted that it will be a question of national security if this is examined in the top court.

"We have denied all allegations...IT Minister has clarified that a web portal has published a sensational story before Parliament session begins. There is nothing to hide or that needs examination. It's a scientific thing and we will appoint a neutral body of persons and experts to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised. What more can Centre do? This is transparency," he said.

When the matter was first heard, the Court had observed that while the allegations in news reports regarding the Pegasus controversy are serious in nature if true, no efforts seem to have been made by the affected persons to file criminal complaints with the police before approaching the top court.

Read courtroom exchange of the hearing on Tuesday here.

[Read Order]

ML Sharma vs UOI.pdf
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