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Pegasus Snooping- Counsel Of Bhima Koregaon Accused Writes To SC-Appointed Technical Committee Suspecting Hacking Of His Device

Srishti Ojha
9 Jan 2022 8:51 AM GMT
Pegasus Snooping- Counsel Of Bhima Koregaon Accused Writes To SC-Appointed Technical Committee Suspecting Hacking Of His Device
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A lawyer, who represented several persons implicated in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case has written to the Technical Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to probe into the allegations of snooping through Pegasus, suspecting compromise of his mobile device by Pegasus Malware.Advocate Nihalsing B Rathod, a practicing lawyer based in Nagpur has argued that his phone...

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A lawyer, who represented several persons implicated in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case has written to the Technical Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to probe into the allegations of snooping through Pegasus, suspecting compromise of his mobile device by Pegasus Malware.

Advocate Nihalsing B Rathod, a practicing lawyer based in Nagpur has argued that his phone was intercepted for accessing the privileged communication and legal strategies drawn on behalf of his clients in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad.

Mr Rathod represented several persons in proceedings arising out of Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad including Surendra Gadding, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe. Further, he was also consulted on numerous occasions by Anand Teltumbade and Stan Swami prior to their arrest.

Mr Rathod,has therefore sought an opportunity to appear before the committee and to cross examine the agencies that the Committee may summon in the course of the enquiry.

He has also requested that the proceedings of the committee be made public with people willing to give information being allowed to appear before the committee and cross examine any witnesses of government agencies the Committee may summon.

Mr Rathod has insisted on the investigations into and disclosure of the following information:

  • Whether any agency of the government of India or state government or any organizations considered agencies of the State as defined in Article 12 of the Constitution procured Pegasus spyware?
  • If yes, from what sources was the said spyware purchased, what was the amount paid for the said purchase and to which budget head was it debited in the records of the acquiring agency?
  • Under whose authority, direction was it used against lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and politicians?
  • The personal information, data and records which were accessed by the operators of the same.
  • The law which authorized the use of the spyware against me and what is the record of authorizing the use of the said spyware against me and my colleagues.

Mr Rathod has pointed out the following reasons to believe that his mobile phone was hacked using Pegasus, by infiltrating through WhatsApp application:

  • Repeated video calls from different international numbers. A similar thing had happened with Vira Sathidar (now deceased) and Mrs Minal Gadling w/o Adv Surendra Gadling currently in custody in Talajo jail in the Elgar Parishad Bhima Koregaon case.
  • A communication received from a person identifying himself to be associated with Canada-based Citizen Lab informing him that his phone was targeted through a spyware called Pegasus.
  • All this information of the targeting of his phone and that of several other human rights activists was later on in the public domain as they were approached and gave several interviews to the press and electronic media.
  • He was officially informed by Whatsapp that his phone was compromised by use of spyware and the same was communicated to him through a whatsapp

According to him, he has reasons to believe that apart from Pegasus, spyware such as Netwire which gives remote access to the computer devices were also used by the Indian Agencies, for the similar purposes.

The Technical Committee constituted by the Supreme Court to investigate the allegations of snooping using the Pegasus spyware had recently sought details from persons who suspect that their devices have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware by January 7, 2022.

The Committee had issued a public notice in this regard asking such persons, who feel that they are targets of Pegasus spyware, to write to them along with reasons as to why they believe their devices have been infected by Pegasus spyware.

It was on October 26 last year that the Supreme Court constituted an independent expert committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran to probe into the allegations of snooping of journalists, activists, politicians etc, using the Pegasus spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO.

A bench led by the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana passed the direction in view of the refusal of the Union Government to make a clear statement as to whether it has availed the services of Pegasus spyware or not. The bench refused to accept the argument of "national security" raised by the Central Government, saying the state will "not get a free pass" every time national security is raised and the court will not remain a "mute spectator". Refusing the proposal of the Union Government that it will constitute a committee to examine the issue, the Court said that an independent committee is required to ensure a fair and impartial investigation. Observing that unauthorized surveillance can have a "chilling effect" on press freedom, the Supreme Court proceeded to order an independent probe into the issue, after holding that the petitioners have made out a prima facie case.

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