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Pegasus snooping: Centre says can’t file affidavit, cites national security, Supreme Court reserves order

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The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on a batch of petitions seeking probe into the alleged snooping carried out by the Central government on a number of politicians and journalists with the help of Israeli spyware Pegasus.

The development came, as the Centre expressed its unwillingness to file an affidavit in the matter, citing concerns over national security.

The Bench, headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, observed that they had given 6 days time to the Centre to file a detailed affidavit on the matter, which the Union government has now refused.

The Court further said that it will pass the order within 2-3 days. Meanwhile, the Solicitor General can mention the matter before it, if there is any “rethinking” on its part, the Bench added.

Earlier on September 7, a bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice A.S. Bopanna had adjourned the hearing to September 13, after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested for more time for filing the detailed affidavit as some officers were not available.

The SG had said, “There is some difficulty regarding that affidavit. I couldn’t ensure the stand. Please consider accommodating me till day after.” Following Mehta’s request, the apex court had adjourned the matter.

Centre had denied all allegations in August 16 affidavit

The Centre on August 16 had submitted a two-page affidavit, denying all the allegations levelled against it. Thereafter, the Union Government had told the Court that it does not want to file any additional affidavit in the Pegasus issue, as national security aspects are involved. It assured that it was willing to place the details before the proposed expert committee.

The Court told the Centre that it does not want to know national security aspects. “We don’t want a single word relating to national security, but there are civilians, persons of eminence complaining of hacking,” the bench told the Solicitor General.

300 Indian mobile numbers on NSO list, said reports

The petitions are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus. An international media consortium had reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.

Opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, two Union Ministers Prahlad Singh Patel (Minister of State for Jal Shakti) and Ashwini Vaishnaw (Railways and IT); businessman Anil Ambani; a former CBI chief and at least 40 journalists were on the list of the leaked NSO database. It is, however, not established that all phones were hacked. The Government has denied all allegations in the matter.

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