On August 5, the Supreme Court will hear a slew of petitions seeking a court-monitored investigation into the alleged Pegasus snooping charges.
The petition filed in the Supreme Court seeks an independent Court-monitored investigation into the Pegasus report, which has caused a political uproar and effectively rendered the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament a washout.
The petitions will be heard by a two-member bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana. The second judge on the bench is Justice Surya Kant.
Senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, CPM MP John Brittas, and advocate ML Sharma have petitioned the Supreme Court to order the government to reveal whether it obtained a licence for the spyware or used it – directly or indirectly – to conduct any kind of surveillance.
They have also claimed that the snooping was an attempt by agencies and organisations to stifle free expression and dissent in India.
Over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware, according to an international media consortium. Congress President Rahul Gandhi, ace poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two serving Union Ministers, an ex-Election Commissioner, and 40 journalists were discovered to be on an alleged leaked list of potential targets.
According to the petitioners, forensic analysis of several mobile phones belonging to people listed as potential targets by Amnesty International’s Security Lab confirmed security breaches.
The hacking of journalists’, doctors’, lawyers’, activists’, ministers’, and opposition politicians’ phones “seriously jeopardises” the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression, according to the petition.
It went on to say that such an act has an obvious chilling effect on expression by threatening invasion into the most intimate and private aspects of a person’s life.