Did government ever buy or use Pegasus? SC seeks detailed affidavit; Centre offers to form experts’ panel on snooping allegations | India News


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to furnish a detailed affidavit with the information if Israeli spyware Pegasus was used or not, even as the government said it has decided to constitute a committee of experts to examine all the issues related to the snooping case.
“The petitioners want to know whether the government had ever bought or used Pegasus, and if not what steps it took to inquire into the alleged illegal interceptions using Pegasus. If you want to file a detailed affidavit you can take time and do so,” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana told solicitor general Tushar Mehta.
The top court was hearing a batch of petitions over allegations of snooping using Israeli spyware Pegasus.
Earlier, the Centre in its two-page affidavit said that petitions seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations are based on “conjectures and surmises” or on other unsubstantiated media reports.
The solicitor general representing Centre told the court “We are dealing with a sensitive matter but an attempt is being made to make this sensational. This matter will have national security implications.”
In its affidavit, the government said its position on the alleged Pegasus snooping has already been clarified in Parliament by IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
“A bare perusal of the captioned petition and other connected petitions makes it clear that the same are based on conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material,” the affidavit said.
The Centre also told the court that it had “nothing to hide” in the Pegasus snooping allegations and it will constitute a committee of eminent experts to examine all the aspects of the “highly technical issue”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, who have filed one of the pleas seeking probe into the snooping allegations, said the affidavit filed by the Centre does not say whether the government or its agencies had used the spyware.
“We do not want the government, which might have used Pegasus or its agency might have used it, to set up a committee on its own,” Sibal said during the hearing.
Reacting to Centre’s offer of expert committee, the top court said the technical committee will have limitations on finding out who purchased and for what purpose. The committee can only find out whether phones were snooped or not.
The Centre told the court that it can choose the independent members of the expert technical committee and can also authorise the panel to go into all issues.


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