The Supreme Court on Thursday said that it was planning to set up an expert committee to investigate the allegations of snooping done by the Central government on political leaders of opposition parties and journalists using Israel spyware Pegasus. (Manohar Lal Sharma vs Union of India)
Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana also revealed that some of the experts had expressed their inability to become part of the committee due to personal reasons, which has led to the delay by the apex court in passing an order in this regard.
However, the CJI said the order is likely to be passed next week. The apex court had reserved its interim order in the matter on September 13.
Israel-based spyware firm NSO had earlier claimed that it sells its Pegasus spyware only to “vetted governments” and not to private entities, while refusing to provide details regarding the governments, which bought the controversial product.
An international consortium, including Indian news portal The Wire, had recently released a series of reports indicating that Pegasus may have been inserted on the mobile devices of several persons including Indian journalists, activists, lawyers, officials, a former Supreme Court judge and others.
The reports further revealed 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 slew of petitions were filed before the top court, seeking probe into the allegations.
On August 17, the Court had issued notice to the Centre in the pleas after the Union submitted that it was willing to give details regarding the controversy to an expert committee, but will not make it public before the Court for fear of national security implications.
While doing so, it had questioned the Central government as to why a detailed affidavit could not be filed in response to the petitions filed before the Court. The Court had eventually reserved its order, saying that it will pass orders without the Centre’s affidavit.