7 Sep 2021 5:56 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned till September 13 the hearing in batch of cases seeking investigation into the Pegasus snooping row after the Central Government sought time.A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Bopanna was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team or a judicial...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned till September 13 the hearing in batch of cases seeking investigation into the Pegasus snooping row after the Central Government sought time.
A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Bopanna was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team or a judicial probe into the reports of snooping of activists, journalists, politicians and constitutional authorities using the Pegasus spyware.
As the matter was taken, the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta submitted that there was some difficulty in filing the affidavit as some officers could not be met. He requested for a short adjournment till Thursday.
"There is some difficulty regarding that affidavit. I couldn't ensure the stand. Please consider accommodating me till day after", the Solicitor General submitted.
"But you have already filed an affidavit", the CJI responded.
"Yes, but on last occasion Your Lordships had inquired if we'd like to file a further affidavit. For some reason, some officers weren't there, I couldn't meet, etc. It could not be found out", the SG replied.
The SG requested for adjourning the matter till Thursday or till next Monday, if the senior advocates representing the petitioners are not objecting.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing in the petition filed by journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, said that there was no objection. Accordingly, the petitions were adjourned to Monday, September 13.
The Supreme Court had on 17th August issued notice before admission to the Central Government in the batch of petitions.
The Central Government had told the Supreme Court that it does not want to file any additional affidavit in the Pegasus issue, as national security aspects are involved. The Centre had added that it is willing to place the details before the expert committee proposed to be constituted by it to examine the issues.
The submissions had come after the Supreme Court on 16th August adjourned the hearing for a day and asked SG to ascertain if the Union Government wanted to file an additional affidavit in the matter. This was after the petitioners highlighted that the "limited affidavit" filed by the Centre evaded the question whether Government or its agencies have ever used Pegasus.
The Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta therefore told the Court that the affidavit already filed by the Centre in the case is "sufficient" and a further affidavit is uncalled for. The Solicitor said that if the Government is disclosing in public that it is not using a particular interception software, the terrorist organizations will take advantage of that information to change their communication settings.
At the same time, the Solicitor had stated that the Government will place all the details before the proposed technical committee, which he assured, will consist only of neutral officers.
The bench had clarified that it does not want to compel the Government to disclose any information or to compromise national security. The bench orally said it only wants information regarding authorization for alleged interception of the phones of civilians.
"We had thought a comprehensive reply will come but it was a limited reply. We will see, we will also think and consider what can be done. We will discuss what needs to be done, if committee of experts needs to be made, or some other committee", the Chief Justice of India said.
On August 12, the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had sought time to get instructions from the Union Government as regards the response to the pleas.
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 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.
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