- Former SC judge to be assisted by IPS officer, National Forensic University
- Panel asked to submit report within two months
The Supreme Court has appointed a committee on Wednesday (27 October 2021) to probe Pegasus issue. The committee is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge Justice RV Ravindran and he will be assisted by an IPS officer along with officials of National Forensic University. Allegations of snooping with Pegasus software are related to fundamental rights of the citizens and it could have a ‘chilling effect,’ the SC said. The Committee has to submit its report to the court by the time for next hearing which is two months away.
The Supreme Court said it had issued notices to government giving ample opportunity to explain its stand but the government chose to be brief and vague. Despite repeated chances, they gave limited affidavit, the apex court said. Had they submitted a details affidavit as expected, the burden on the court could have been lessened. National security should not be an excuse for the state to avoid examination, it added.
Although the top court had repeatedly said that it would not encroach on national security, it could not, at the same time, remain a mute spectator. The public interest litigation is about fundamental rights being violated. There are also allegations of foreign agencies getting involved. “Vague denial from the government is not sufficient and the allegations have to be probed,” the court made it clear.
The petitioners include former union minister Yashwant Sinha, chairman of The Hindu N. Ram, CPM MP John Brittas, the Editors Guild of India, SC advocate ML Sharma and some individual journalists. Most of them wanted to know if the spyware was used to target opposition leaders and journalists. The petitioners alleged that the snooping is an attempt by the central agencies to muzzle the freedom of expression and dissent.
The SC was hearing a batch of petitions, seeking a court-monitored probe into Pegasus software controversy, on 5 August 2021. On 30 July, the bench headed by chief justice NV Ramana heard senior lawyer Kapil Sibal who argued on behalf of the petitioners. The other judge on the bench was Justice Surya Kant.