25 Aug 2021 6:44 AM GMT
Since, the Central Government did not find it necessary to appoint a Commission of Inquiry in relation to the 'Pegasus' spyware scandal, the State of West Bengal has submitted before the Supreme Court that it acted well within its legal authority to appoint a commission since the subject matter of the inquiry fell within the bounds of List II and III of the Seventh Schedule of...
Since, the Central Government did not find it necessary to appoint a Commission of Inquiry in relation to the 'Pegasus' spyware scandal, the State of West Bengal has submitted before the Supreme Court that it acted well within its legal authority to appoint a commission since the subject matter of the inquiry fell within the bounds of List II and III of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
The State of West Bengal had set up a two-member Commission of Inquiry, headed by retired judge Madan B Lokur, to probe into the alleged surveillance of Indian citizens using Israeli Pegasus spyware.
A petition was then filed by NGO Global Village Foundation Public Charitable Trust for disbanding the said commission.
The Counter Affidavit filed through Additional Chief Secretary BP Gopalika, clarifies that the intent behind the appointment of an inquiry commission was neither to have a parallel inquiry into the matter nor was it to overreach the proceedings pending before the Supreme Court.
With a view to restore public confidence in the people of West Bengal given that the spyware controversy, if found true, has the potential to disrupt people's lives and impinge upon their fundamental rights, the state government made the said appointment.
"It is respectfully submitted that the inquiry being conducted by the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the State Government can co-exist with the proceedings pending before this Hon'ble Court. The commission being a fact finding body cannot overreach the Orders of this Hon'ble Court nor can it dilute them."
It is further averred that the State Government could not sit as a silent spectator particularly when the Union Government was not only non-committal and evasive on the subject but had also at the very threshold dismissed the allegations made in the Wire reports dated July 18, 2021 under the rubric of sensationalism.
The affidavit also questions the motive behind the plea, and claims that the trustee and chairman of the NGO had close links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliate, Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
Furthermore, with regard to the petitioner's contention that the subject matter of inquiry entrusted to the said Commission is relatable to "national security" and 'communication' which are subjects relatable List I of the Seventh Schedule, the counter affidavit submits that the subject matter is wide enough to traverse all three lists and therefore the State Government is not denuded of its power under the entries of Lists II and III to appoint the said Commission of Inquiry especially when there is possibility that high functionaries and public institutions in the State may have been the target of the said spyware.