The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will form a committee to look into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter.
The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will form a committee of experts to look into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter, while denying all allegations as “unsubstantiated” and “uncorroborated”.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre said: “With a view to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised, the Union of India will constitute a Committee of Experts in the field which will go in to all aspects of the issue.”
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It also said that the charges levelled by the petitioners are “based on conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material. It is submitted that the same cannot be the basis for invoking the writ jurisdiction of this honourable court.”
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that if the court approves, an independent committee can be constituted with neutral experts and not government officers and the terms of reference could be laid down by the court.
The government said that this issue is “highly technical” and expertise was needed to examine the aspects. “There is nothing to hide. It needs examination by committee of experts. This is a highly technical issue. We will appoint eminent neutral experts from the field,” Mehta told the bench.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar who have filed a plea seeking probe into the snooping allegations, said the affidavit filed by the Centre does not say whether the government or its agencies had used the spyware.
“We do not want the government, which might have used Pegasus or its agency might have used it, to set up a committee on its own,” Sibal said during the hearing which is going on.
A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and justices Suryakant and Aniruddha Bose was hearing a batch of petitions, including those filed by the Editors Guild of India and senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, seeking independent probe into the alleged snooping row.
They 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 Pegasus spyware.
On August 10, the top court had taken exception over ‘parallel proceedings and debates’ on social media by some petitioners who have sought independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping issue and said there must be some discipline and they must have ‘some faith in the system’.
The top court had said that it would take a call on August 16 on whether to issue notice to the Centre on pleas seeking probe into the Pegasus row and emphasised that it is not against debate but when the matter is pending in the apex court it should be deliberated upon here.
The bench had said that it expects that petitioners who are interested in the matter would answer whatever queries the court would put to them by way of proper debate ‘in the court and not outside’.