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Pegasus issue: SC to hear on August 5 pleas seeking probe into snooping allegations

The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant will hear pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists on August 5.

The pleas filed by senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) and advocate ML Sharma are listed for hearing before a Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant on August 5.

The pleas seek inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the top court to investigate the alleged snooping.

The petition filed by the senior journalists sought a direction to the Centre to disclose if it or any of its agencies have used Pegasus Spyware either directly or indirectly to conduct surveillance in any manner.

“Direct the Government of India to disclose if the Government of India or any of its agencies have obtained license(s) for Pegasus spyware and/or used/employed it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner whatsoever. Issue direction of constituting an inquiry to investigate the extent of surveillance on Indian citizens using the Pegasus spyware and other entities responsible for it, headed by sitting or retired judge of this court duly nominated by this court,” stated the plea.

The plea said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by the Supreme Court in the KS Puttaswamy case.

The targeted hacking/interception of inter alia journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), added the petition.

The petitioners have claimed that investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 Indians, including journalists, lawyers, government ministers, opposition politicians, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists, have been identified as “potential targets” for surveillance using Pegasus software.

Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) in his plea has sought a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on people. The petition has said that despite the very serious nature of the allegations, the government has not cared to investigate the issue.

Advocate Sharma sought direction for an SIT probe on whether the Union government bought the Pegasus spyware following due procedure of law and whether and how it had been used since the purchase.

Sharma said that in the interest of justice and fair play and for the protection of the life and liberty of the citizens of India, the Supreme Court should pass a direction to set up an SIT under the supervision of this court for an investigation into the Pegasus scandal and to prosecute all accused persons/ ministers for buying Pegasus and snooping of the citizen of India, including judges, opposition leaders and political persons, activist, advocates and others. ANI News

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