Thu, 23 Sep 2021

New Delhi [India], July 30 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear next week the plea of senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar seeking an inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the apex court to investigate into the reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said the court will hear the plea next week after senior advocate Kapil Sibal for the petitioners mentioned the matter for urgent hearing.

Sibal said that civil liberties of citizens, politicians belonging to opposition parties, journalists, etc. have been put under surveillance, and the issue is making waves in India and world over and requires an urgent hearing.

The petition filed by the senior journalists seeks a direction to the Centre to disclose if it or any of its agencies have used Pegasus Spyware either directly or indirectly to conduct surveillance in any manner.

"Direct the Government of India to disclose if the Government of India or any of its agencies have obtained license(s) for Pegasus spyware and/or used/employed it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner whatsoever. Issue direction of constituting an inquiry to investigate the extent of surveillance on Indian citizens using the Pegasus spyware and other entities reponsible for it, headed by sitting or retired judge of this court duly nominated by this court," stated the plea.

The plea further said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy case.

The targeted hacking, interception of inter alia journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), added the petition.

The petitioners have claimed that investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 Indians, including journalists, lawyers, government ministers, opposition politicians, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists, have been identified as "potential targets" for surveillance using Pegasus software.

This is the third writ petition filed in the apex court on the Pegasus Spyware issue. Earlier, advocate ML Sharma and Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of the Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) had filed PILs on the issue.

Brittas has sought a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on people. The petition said that despite the very serious nature of the allegations, the government has not cared to investigate into the issue.

Advocate Sharma sought direction for an SIT probe on whether the Union government bought the Pegasus spyware following due procedure of law and whether and how it had been used since the purchase.

Sharma said that in the interest of justice and fair play and for the protection of the life and liberty of the citizens of India, the Supreme Court should pass direction to set up a SIT under the supervision of this court for investigating the Pegasus scandal and to prosecute all accused persons, ministers for buying Pegasus and snooping on citizens of India, including judges, opposition leaders and political persons, activist, advocates and others. (ANI)

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