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Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on Pegasus Project snooping allegations

The Centre told the Court today that it doesn't want to file additional affidavit in the matter as it involves national security.

August 17, 2021 / 01:01 PM IST

The Supreme Court on August 17 issued notice to the Centre in a batch of petitions seeking a probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations.

The Apex Court bench of Chief Justice NV Ramanna and Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose posted the matter after ten days and said that it needs to deliberate further on how to proceed with the matter, according to legal news website livelaw.in.

"We need to think how to go ahead with the matter. Presently we will issue notice and list after sometime," the Bench said.

The Court, therefore proceeded to issue formal notice to the government and listed the case after 10 days. "Meanwhile further course of action will be deliberated upon," the Court said.

READ: Pegasus Project Report: Centre denies snooping allegations in its affidavit in Supreme Court, says will set up probe committee

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The Centre told the court during the hearing that it doesn't want to file an additional affidavit in the matter as it involves national security. The government informed the court that it is, however, willing to place the details before the expert committee that it proposes to be constituted.

“Those who are likely to be intercepted may take preemptive or corrective steps. These are issues of national security. What is used or not used are part of national security. We will place everything before the committee it can’t be the subject matter of affidavit or public debate,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the government, told the Court.

Mehta said that the expert committee can then place its report before the Court.

"We can divulge to committee of experts and the expert body will be a neutral body. The committee will place its report before the court. But how can we senationalise the issue? Would you as a constitutional court expect such issues to be divulged before the court and put it up for public debate," he said, according to a report in Bar& Bench.

The Court asked what was the problem if that competent authority files an affidavit before it. "We don’t want you to say anything related to national security,” it said.

The Supreme Court had August 16 sought to know if the Centre wants to file an additional affidavit on the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to snoop on journalists, politicians, activists and court staff. The top court had said it cannot compel the government to file an affidavit if it was reluctant to do so.

Also, read: In-Depth | Pegasus spyware scandal and growing chorus to regulate private surveillance 

The Bench is hearing a batch of petitions by journalist N Ram, TMC leader Yashwant Sinha, Editors Guild and seven others, seeking an independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter.

Earlier on August 16, the Centre filed a two-page affidavit in the Supreme Court in which it unequivocally denied all allegations of using spyware to snoop on journalists, politicians, activists and court staff.

The government also informed the top court that it will soon set up a committee of experts to examine all issues raised in the Pegasus Project row to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests.

An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm's Pegasus spyware.

Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two Union ministers, Prahlad Singh Patel and Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav, a former CBI chief, and at least 40 journalists are on the list on the leaked database of NSO.

Also, read Parliament Monsoon Session: Opposition blames Centre for deadlock, seeks debate on Pegasus in both Houses




The Parliament was adjourned sine die on August 11, two days ahead of scheduled conclusion.

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