SC warns against “parallel debates” on Pegasus snooping row

By: |
August 11, 2021 4:00 AM

Taking note of social media debates and press statements by the petitioners on the matter, a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana reminded the petitioners and their lawyers that “when the matter is in court, it should be deliberated here”.

The court had earlier expressed surprise that though the Pegasus snooping issue had first emerged in 2019, the petitioners have not submitted any verifiable material on the allegation.The court had earlier expressed surprise that though the Pegasus snooping issue had first emerged in 2019, the petitioners have not submitted any verifiable material on the allegation.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday told petitioners who are seeking an investigation into the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to snoop on eminent people that they should “have faith in the system” and refrain from engaging in “parallel debates” outside court and on social media.

Taking note of social media debates and press statements by the petitioners on the matter, a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana reminded the petitioners and their lawyers that “when the matter is in court, it should be deliberated here”.

“Why have parallel debates? Whatever you are saying in the media … whatever queries are to be answered … once you come to this court, we expect the debate is taking place [here] and we expect [the government] will answer the questions we put to them,” the CJI said.

He said the petitioners are educated people, with parliamentarians and journalists among them. “There must be some discipline. If the petitioners want to say anything, or bring anything to the notice of the court, they can file an additional affidavit …” he said.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on Monday after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time to get the government’s response.

The court had earlier expressed surprise that though the Pegasus snooping issue had first emerged in 2019, the petitioners have not submitted any verifiable material on the allegation.

The SC was hearing nine petitions, including one filed by the Editors Guild of India, seeking an independent investigation into the alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and journalists by using Israeli cyber-intelligence firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus. Other petitioners include politicians such as Rajya Sabha Member John Brittas, social activist Jagdeep Chhokar, and journalists N Ram, Sashi Kumar, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Rupesh Kumar Singh, among others.

An international media consortium has reported that more than 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using the Pegasus spyware.

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