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Pegasus Row: SC asks Centre to file response on snooping allegations

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to file its response in connection with allegations of snooping on individuals using Israeli spyware. The court also said that it will take a call on constituting a committee to investigate the Pegasus controversy only after the Union government files its response in the case.

Acting on pleas seeking probe into the Pegasus row, the bench comprising of Justice Surya Kant said, “We do not want national security to be compromised, but the phones of individuals were attacked as per their claims. Only a competent authority can respond on that,” the court said. The next hearing of the cases have been scheduled after 10 days.

What the Supreme Court said

The apex court, while adjudicating the petitions, said, “…We don’t want to compromise with security of nation or interfere with Defence Ministry protocols. We will not ask you to disclose… But the issue is simple. Individuals here are submitting that interception of their phones happened and this can be done by permission of competent authority. So what is the problem with the competent authority to file an affidavit before us, without compromising national security and defence issues?”

What govt said

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta argued, “All petitions ask for one thing – Supreme Court inquiry. Yesterday, they asked that they just want the government to answer whether Pegasus was used. This software is purchased by all countries. But which software was used or not is never divulged by any country for national security reasons.”

“We have nothing to hide from the court. We will place everything before the court mandated committee that will be set up. But it cannot be put out into public through affidavits. Tomorrow, web portals will say military resources were used illegally. Let us have a committee and we will place all information before it,” he added.

The Union government has denied allegations of snooping and illegal surveillance levelled against it in the Pegasus snooping row. The government, through an affidavit submitted by the Ministry of Electronics and IT’s additional secretary Rajendra Kumar, told the Supreme Court that the snooping allegations are based on conjectures and unsubstantiated media reports.

The Pegasus snooping row

An international media consortium, including The Wire, has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware. According to The Wire, phones of opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Supreme Court judges, ministers, and journalists were among potential targets. The Opposition, including the Congress, had attacked the Narendra Modi government after the snooping row erupted.

 

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