The Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant, on 30.07.2021, agreed to hear next week the plea of senior journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar seeking an independent probe by a sitting or retired Supreme Court Judge into the alleged Pegasus Surveillance Scandal. The plea also requested an order to be delivered for disclosure by the Government of India or any of its agencies whether the Pegasus Spyware was employed to conduct surveillance.
Pegasus software is advanced spyware created by the NSO Group, an Israeli corporation, that is used to conduct surveillance against threats determined by the respective user Government. In July 2021, Amnesty International, along with 13 media outlets across the globe, released a report on how the spyware was used to snoop on hundreds of individuals, including Indian citizens.
Though NSO claims that the Pegasus software is sold only to “vetted governments” and not to private entities, the company refused to reveal which governments it sells the controversial product to. The petitioners had submitted to the Court that a forensic analysis by the Amnesty International’s Security Lab of the phones of the alleged victims has confirmed the incidence of snooping activity.
The petitioners also contended in their petition that such snooping activity by the State against its citizens aims to “muzzle and chill the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India” The petition further submits, “Such mass surveillance using a military-grade spyware abridges several fundamental rights and appears to represent an attempt to infiltrate, attack and destabilize independent institutions that act as critical pillars of our democratic set-up”.