SC-appointed Committee submits interim report on Pegasustext_fields
New Delhi: The Supreme Court-appointed Technical Committee to probe allegations of illegal surveillance through Pegasus spyware has submitted its interim report. The Chief Justice of India NV Ramana's bench will take pending petitions on the issue as well as the report on February 23, The Indian Express reported.
The top court appointed the committee on October 27 last year, and the team comprised Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar; Dr Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala; and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Former SC judge RV Raveendran was appointed to monitor the committee while former IPS officer Alok Joshi and cyber security expert DR Sundeep Oberoi assisted him.
So far, two security experts from the petitioners had testified before the committee that there was strong evidence that the state had employed the spyware for illegal surveillance on individuals.
The committee was employed to probe whether Pegasus was used on phones or other devices of Indian citizens to access stored data, eavesdrop on conversations, intercept information or any other purposes. It was to find details of those affected, if any and what actions the Union government took after media reports on the snooping surfaced in 2019. Further, it was asked to look into whether the Union government purchased the spyware and if it used Pegasus on citizens, under what rule was such a deployment authorised.
The Union government had blatantly denied all the allegations regarding Pegasus before the court and had added that they wish not to put details in public affidavit since it has national security concerns. It had submitted that the details would be revealed before a committee of experts, begged the court for appointing one, and the CJI bench agreed.
In July 2021, a probe led by a global consortium of journalists revealed that governments used the spyware to target many people, including the opposition, journalists etc. The Wire reported that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor, the then Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa etc., along with 40 journalists, were potential targets to the spyware.