The Supreme Court made it clear that the government was not needed to disclose anything which might comprise national security.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a batch of petitions seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter while making it clear that the government was not needed to disclose anything which might compromise national security.
The court said that the government should reply on allegations that the spyware was used on individual phones. The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, said it will take up the matter after 10 days and see what course should be adopted.
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“For the defence of the nation, we’re not going to disclose anything. Some persons of eminence are alleging snooping of phones, now this can also be done but only with permission of the competent authority. What’s the problem if authority files an affidavit before us?” the bench said.
On this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said: “We’re all in our own right responsible citizens. Govt doesn’t mind saying it before an expert group. Suppose a terror organisation uses technology to communicate with sleeper cells and we say we’re not using Pegasus, they’ll modulate apparatus in a way that it’s not Pegasus compatible.”
On Monday, the Centre had asserted it had nothing to hide” in the Pegasus snooping allegations and that a panel of experts will be set up to examine all issues raised even as the Supreme Court said the “reluctant” government cannot be compelled to file a detailed affidavit on pleas asking whether the spyware was used to snoop on certain citizens.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in a two-page affidavit told the bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, that to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised, the Centre will constitute a Committee of Experts in the field which will go into all aspects of the issue.
The pleas, including the one filed by Editors Guild of India, 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 has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using the Pegasus spyware.