The Supreme Court will resume hearing today a batch of petitions seeking various prayers including a court-monitored probe, a judicial inquiry and directions to the government to reveal details about whether it had used the Pegasus software to spy on citizens.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana is hearing the case.
Yesteray, the Centre suggested it would form of a Committee of experts to investigate the matter. Further, national security concerns were raised in terms of disclosure of details regarding the software.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan is expected to make submissions today.
Read a complete account of yesterday's proceedings here.
Live updates of the hearing today feature here.
Sr. Advocate CU Singh: I am appearing along with Mr. Sibal
CJI NV Ramana: Mr. Mehta (SG Tushar Mehta)?
Sr. Advocate Colin Gonsalves: A plea has been filed by an expert group on surveillance. They have filed an elaborate petition with international precedents.
Sr. Advocate Colin Gonsalves: The plea by Software Freedom Law Centre has been numbered but I was asked to mention this. I seek this to be tagged with these matters.
CJI again calls for SG Mehta.
SG Tushar Mehta: Apropos to what was submitted yesterday. Our considered response is whatever we respectfully stated in last affidavit was examined.
Kindly examine from one point of view. My affidavit is sufficient. I am before the highest court of the country.
Justice Bose: Are you sure, you want to say anything else?
CJI: Other counsels please mute yourselves. I will disconnect if you come on screen and talk.
SG resumes: I am before the highest consitutional court of the country, Mr. Sibal very rightly said there is a statutory mechanism which permits that interception can be there as statutory rules since its needed to combat terrorism.
All pleas pray for enquiry into this issue.
SG: Now they say whether pegasus was used or not used, that's the only thing. Now we know that IT encryption rules is there for state security and national security purposes these software can be used.
SG: These software are purchased by every country, they want it to be divulged if the software has not been used. If we divulge this then the terrotists etc. can take preventive steps.
SG: These are national security issues and we cannot hide anything from court, this has to be before a committee and cannot be a subject to public debate.
Some web portals are weaving narrative that some software is used.
SG: If i ask the government to divulge this fact before the court then I will fail in my duty.
We can divulge to committee of experts and the expert body will be a neutral body.
Would you as a constitutional court expect such issues to be divulged before the court and put it up for public debate?
SG: The committee will place its report before the Court. But how can we senationalise the issue? If there is an illegitimate use then it cannot be countenanced by you. There cannot be anything more fair than this.
Justice Kant: We as a court and you as the SG and all lawyers as officers of the court, none of us would like to compromise with the security of the nation.
For the defence of the nation we are not going to disclose anything.
Justice Kant: Some persons of eminence are alleging snooping and hacking of phones. Now this can also be done but only with permission of competent authority. What is the problem if the authority files an affidavit before us?
We will issue a simple notice in these cases and let the authority file an affidavit as to what action was taken.
SG: We are all in our own right responsible citizens.
Please assume a situation where I am a terrorist organisation and there would be security inception by a terrorist organisation. Now if some country says pegasus was not used, then there are technologies we are unaware of.
SG: Government 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 not using Pegasus, they will modulate the apparatus in such a way that it is not Pegasus compatible.
SG: What is intended should come by an affidavit before you or a report by the committee. I am not saying I won't say to anyone. I am only saying I won't tell this publicly. We can be before the expert committee.
SG Mehta: I wish to make it clear that it is not my case that we don't want to divulge by an affidavit. My point is let me say it before a committee whose report will come before you.
CJI: We cannot compel you to do something you don't want to.
We are thinking, we will issue notice for admission and list after sometime. Let us see if we constitute a committee or do something else.
If you want to do something then you can (to SG Mehta).
Sibal: Security of the State is as important to us as to the Government. Our intention is to not have security details. But he must reply whether pegasus as a technology was used or not.
CJI: We are not averse to the committee by you, but we are on admission stage. We need to think how to go ahead with the matter. Presently we will issue notice and list after sometime.
CJI: We are issuing notice. Let the matter come up. Notice issued to the Government of India. Matter to be listed after 10 days.
Meanwhile further course of action will be deliberated upon.
Divan: Grateful for notice pre-admission. Please issue notice on this IA regarding the filing of an affidavit.
SG: He cannot decide whether the cabinet secretary should file or someone else. He is saying who should file.
Divan: I am entitled to make submission.
Divan: We should be given time to make a representation on the affidavits.
CJI: We don't want thousands of pages filed. Only relevant pages to be read. You know the procedure of the Supreme Court.