SC could take Journalists’ PIL against Pegasus Snooping next week

PIL against Pegasus Snooping: The Supreme Court is expected to hear next week a motion filed by veteran journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar asking for a judicial inquiry into the surveillance of private citizens using military-grade Pegasus spyware.

Citing the petition to a court headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, lead lawyer Kapil Sibal said: “This case has huge ramifications for civil liberties as it involves oversight of leaders of the opposition, journalists, and activists. This is creating waves not only in India but also abroad.

The bench, which also includes Judge Surya Kant, accepted Sibal’s request to take up the case next week without specifying a date. The petition of N Ram and the president of the Asian College of Journalism, Sashi Kumar, also asked for a response from the government on one of its agencies obtained a license for the spyware Pegasus or used it to monitor the Indian citizens.

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The petition called for an investigation into the alleged illegal espionage by a retired or serving judge of the highest court to determine the extent of surveillance over Indian citizens and determine responsibility.

The Pegasus software, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, is known to be extremely sophisticated military software, the petition states, adding: “Such mass surveillance using military-grade spyware restricts several basic rights and appears to represent an attempt infiltration, attack and destabilize the independent institutions that act as essential pillars of our democratic system. “

The two journalists noted with concern that the government has not categorically ruled out obtaining licenses for Pegasus to conduct surveillance activities in the response given to Parliament by Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwani Vaishnav.

The present petition has stated that the allegations of espionage must be taken seriously as they affect their right to privacy and freedom of expression protected by Articles 21 and 19 (1) (a). In addition, hacking mobile phones using Pegasus spyware is an offense punishable by various provisions of the Information Technology Act. Further, the petition claims that the surveillance was carried out by circumventing the legal regime provided for in Section 5 (2) of the Telegraph Act which provides that surveillance may be carried out for reasons of public emergency or in the interest of public safety.

Two other petitions calling for an investigation into the Pegasus espionage scandal have also been filed with the highest court – one by lawyer ML Sharma and the other by Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas.

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