Tuesday, September 27, 2022

No parallel Social media debate, SC tells petitioners on Pegasus

  • No transactions with NSO, defence ministry clarifies
  • Ram makes an error, the bench refers to it

The Supreme Court today directed the petitioners in Pegasus case that they are not permitted to continue with their debates in social media and they can say anything they wish to say in the court. The hearing on the petitions filed about Pegasus spywre would resume on Monday. The apex court said they should have faith in the system and they should not take part in parallel debate in social media.

“Why have parallel debates? Whatever you are saying in the media…whatever queries are to be answered…there should be a proper debate in the court,” the bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana told opposition leaders and journalists who filed a number of petitions which have been clubbed and being heard. “We are not against debates…but when the matter is in court, it should be deliberated here,” the bench observed. Referring to the error in N. Ram’s (of The Hindu) petition on Tuesday, the Supreme Court had cautioned against social media debates.  

Adjourned to Monday

When the solicitor general Tushar Mehta requested for more time to read the petitions and respond, the court had postponed hearing to Monday. Mehta told the bench, “I have received the copies (of the petitions). I need instructions from the centre…need time till Friday.”

Arun Shouries, N. Ram, Editors’ Guild of India are some of the petitioners. The bench last week observed while hearing the case for the first time, “if the newspaper reports are correct, the allegations are serious.”

pegasus spyware creating waves across the world

Senior Congress leader and a leading advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for N. Ram, had referred, in the previous hearing,  to an order by a district court in California in the United States on a similar matter. The WhatsApp company had filed a petition against NSO Group which developed the spyware Pegasus. It was observed in that court that the Israeli company had said that the software is sold only to “vetted government organizations.” The American court had noted that the Pegasus was being used to spy on Indian journalists, Ram had said in his petition. But when the court observed that the American court did not refer to Indian journalists being spied upon, his advocate Sibal said it was an error for which his client has been trolled very badly  and the names of the Indian journalists could be found in the petition filed by the Editors Guild of India.

‘The Wire’ is in the lead

It was the ‘Wire,’ headed by Sidhartha Varadarajan, which has been involved in the investigations along with many other global media organizations, which revealed that some 300 persons in India  are potential targets for spying  by using the Pegasus spyware. How many of the potential phones have been hacked is anybody’s guess since no one has established the facts so far. Among the politicians, Congress senior leader Rahul Gandhi’s name was mentioned. The name of the pollster Prashant Kishor also was in news in this regard along with about 40 journalists. The NSO had admitted that its software is used to hack phones but it is sold only to government agencies.

The government on its part has been stoically denying any involvement in spying on rival politicians or journalists. The defence Ministry told Parliament on Monday that there has been no transactions with NSO, the maker of Pegasus spyware. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not said a word about the controversy. He has been concentrating on talking about positive developments in the country such as increasing exports etc. Other members of the cabinet were preferring to avoid it at best saying that there is no substance in the allegations. The opposition has been making it difficult for the ruling party to function in the parliament. The NDA dispensation, on its part, has been using the ruckus as an opportunity to get the bills passed without any debate. On Monday three bills were passed in less than twenty minutes amidst shouting by the opposition Members.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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