The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the State of West Bengal on a public interest litigation petition seeking to disband the two-member Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Madan B Lokur which was constituted by the State government to probe the Pegasus surveillance scandal.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana however refused to stay the proceedings of the committee while stating that the plea will be heard along with petitions seeking probe into Pegasus snoopgate.
"We will hear this along with other similar matters. Issue notice. List on August 25," the Court ordered.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta expressed his willingness to assist the Court on the issue while giving a prima facie opinion that the State government's step to constitute such a committee is unconstitutional.
"It is unconstitutional is all I can say (as of now)," he said.
Advocate Saurabh Mishra appearing for the petitioner, sought stay on the proceedings stating that proceedings before the committee should not go on when issue is being examined at a pan-India level.
The Court, however, refused with Justice Surya Kant remarking that the committee is only taking "preliminary steps".
The Commission of Inquiry which also has on board former Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, Justice (retired) Jyotirmay Bhattacharya has been given the task of inquiring into allegations that he Pegasus software developed by Israeli spyware firm NSO had been misused to spy on Indian lawyers, journalists, government officials, Constitutional functionaries and others.
Israel based spyware firm NSO is best known for its Pegasus spyware, which it claims is sold only to “vetted governments” and not to private entities, though the company does not reveal which governments it sells the controversial product to.
An international consortium, including the Indian news portal The Wire, recently released a series of reports indicating that the said software may have been used to infect the mobile devices of several persons including Indian journalists, activists, lawyers, officials, a former Supreme Court judge and others.
To this end, the reports had referred to a list of phone numbers that were selected as potential targets. Upon analysis by a team from Amnesty International, some of these numbers were found to have traces of a successful Pegasus infection, while some showed attempted infection, the reports had said.
A bunch of petitions seeking probe into the scandal is also pending before the Supreme Court on which the top court had issued notice to the Central government on Tuesday.