The Pegasus case is listed before the Supreme Court tomorrow.
The Court is likely to consider the Interim report submitted by the committee constituted by the court to look into the allegations of widespread and targeted surveillance of politicians, journalists, activist etc using the Pegasus spyware.
A Bench comprising CJI NV Raman and Justice Hima Kohli is considering the matter.
The Committee constituted by the Court has submitted an interim report in the case. The court was expected to consider the report on 23rd February. However the hearing was deferred on the Solicitor General's request.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had on 22nd February requested the Chief Justice of India to defer the matter saying that he was engaged in a part-heard matter the day the matter is listed .
The Court had in October last year constituted a Committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran and had asked the committee to investigate the matter expeditiously.
The overseeing Judge was assisted in this task by:
i. Mr. Alok Joshi, former IPS officer (1976 batch)¯
ii. Dr. Sundeep Oberoi, Chairman, Sub Committee in (International Organisation of Standardisation/ International Electro-Technical Commission/Joint Technical Committee).
The three members Technical Committee comprised of:
Dr. Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Professor (Cyber Security and Digital Forensics) and Dean, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
Dr. Prabaharan P., Professor (School of Engineering), Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, Kerala.
Dr. Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor (Computer Science and Engineering), Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Maharashtra.
The Court constituted the probe committee after making a prima facie finding that the petitioners had established a case. In a judgment emphasising the importance of free speech and press freedom and expressing concerns about unauthorised surveillance, the bench led by CJI NV Ramana stated that national security ground raised by the State cannot totally exclude judicial review. The Central Government had refused to disclose whether it had used Pegasus spyware by stating that it was a national security issue. Rejecting the Centre's defence, the Court said that mere invocation of national security can't give the State a free pass. The Court also rejected the Centre's proposal that it can form a technical committee by saying that an independent committee was required to ensure impartial probe.
The Pegasus controversy erupted on July 18 after The Wire and several other international publications published reports about the mobile numbers which were potential targets of the spyware service given by NSO company to various governments, including India. 40 Indian journalists, political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishore, former ECI member Ashok Lavassa etc are reported to be in the list of targets, as per The Wire.
Several petitions were thereafter filed before the Top Court seeking an independent probe into the matter, notice whereupon is yet to be issued. However, the Top Court has expressed concern over the alleged incident, saying that no doubt, the allegations are serious, if the reports are true. "Truth has to come out, that's a different story. We don't know whose names are there", CJI NV Ramana said.
The petitions have been filed by several people including Advocate ML Sharma, journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas, five pegasus targets( Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shataksi), social activist Jagdeep Chhokkar, Narendra Kumar Mishra and the Editors Guild of India.
Case Title : Manohar Lal Sharma versus Union of India and connected cases