The Supreme Court on Thursday heard the petitions demanding an independent probe in Pegasus row and asked why no one has filed a complaint under the IT and Telegraph act in this case.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Thursday asked why no one has filed a criminal complaint about illegal interception under the IT and the Telegraph act in connection with the Pegasus row.
“We don’t see that any of them have filed a complaint,” the CJI said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing on behalf of the petitioners told the court, “We have no direct access to the information. There are 37 verified cases of interception.”
Sibal said, “Please see N Ram’s petition. A suit was filed by Whatsapp technologies against NSO in the California court. The California court order is attached in the petition. It says ‘once activated the malicious code caused the targetted device to connect to the malware. The malware would then give access to the defendants to the device. The software can only be sold to governments. Not private companies.”
“The issue is of the culpability of the NSO group. The information goes to the NSO group. They have the information even if it was done at the behest of the customer. There is no question that Pegasus does infiltrate. The question is whether Pegasus infiltrated in India,” Kapil Sibal said.
“Why did the Government not take action against NSO technologies? It’s a matter of our security and privacy. These are questions that have to be answered,” he said.
The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.
Kapil Sibal told the court, “Pegasus is a rogue technology which infiltrates our lives without us knowing. All that is required is a telephone and it enters into our lives. It then hears, watches, surveys every minute of our movement. It’s an assault on privacy, on human dignity, and on the values of our Republic.”
However, the CJI said, “Before we hear, we want to ask certain questions. No doubt the allegations are serious if the reports in the papers are correct. Except for the Editors Guild’s petition, other petitions are similar — based on paper reports.”
“You all know there is the credibility of material, verifiable material based on which we can order an investigation. This came into public information two years ago. People who filed these petitions are very educated. This is an internationally known issue. They should have done the hard work to get more material. We don’t want to say all newspaper reports, reputed journalists’ content are hearsay or not believable,” the CJI said.
The CJI also rapped petitioner ML Sharma for filing a petition against the Prime Minister, and other individual ministers. “Don’t try to take advantage,” the Court told Sharma.
The petitioners have been asked to serve the copy of the petitions to the Government. No formal notice has been issued and the matter will be heard next week.
In a hearing on July 30, a bench headed by Chief Justice V Ramana took note of the submissions of senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the petitioners in the case. The top court agreed that the plea needed to be heard in view of the large ramifications of the alleged snooping.
The petitions filed before the Supreme Court, including those by senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, claimed the alleged snooping represented an attempt by the central agencies to muzzle the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India.
The pleas, which were filed on July 27, seek a direction to the Centre to disclose if the government or any of its agencies obtained a license for Pegasus spyware and used it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner.