The Supreme Court will decide today whether a court-supervised probe into the explosive Pegasus snooping scandal that made headlines earlier this year will be conducted. A three-judge bench consisting of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli will deliver the verdict at 10.30 a.m. Following a thorough hearing in the case, the Supreme Court said that it was appointing an independent committee of specialists to investigate the situation.
The petitioners – who included former union minister Yashwant Sinha, CPM MP John Brittas, Supreme Court advocate ML Sharma, the Editors’ Guild of India, and individual journalists – had asked the court to order the government to produce details of the alleged unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software, developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, in addition to a court-monitored investigation.
The petitioners demanded that the government reveal the specifics of how it secured a licence for the malware, how it utilised it directly or indirectly, and who was targeted.
The Centre has declined to specify whether the spyware was employed or not, citing national security concerns as a reason for not being able to file a thorough affidavit with the court. It had, however, offered to set up an independent committee of specialists to look into the matter under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
The applications were submitted in the Supreme Court after a group of international news organisations disclosed in July that the spyware had targeted a number of opposition politicians, journalists, and others.
More than 142 persons in India were reportedly prospective targets, according to news portal “The Wire.” Rahul Gandhi of the Congress, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two sitting Union Ministers, an ex-Election Commissioner, two Supreme Court registrars, an old number of a former judge, a close aide of a former Attorney General, and 40 journalists were allegedly on the list.
According to the reports, forensic investigation of some of the devices by Amnesty International’s Security Lab verified a security compromise.
After software vendor NSO stated that its clients are only “vetted” governments and their agencies, the government came under fire. Little was accomplished during the Monsoon Session of parliament due to the opposition’s outrage over the reports.
Even BJP ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has backed the opposition’s call for an investigation.