New Delhi: The Supreme Court today appointed an expert committee to look into Pegasus snooping controversy, the scandal that had allegedly compromised the privacy of individuals and institutions.
Ruling that the government does not get a free pass every time the spectre of national security is raised, the Supreme Court appointed the committee comprising three technical members and supervised by its retired judge Justice R V Raveendran to conduct a ‘thorough inquiry’ into allegations of use of Pegasus software for unauthorised surveillance.
Justice Raveendran will be assisted in this task by Alok Joshi, former IPS officer (1976 batch) and Sundeep Oberoi, Chairman, Sub Committee in (International Organisation of Standardisation/International Electro-Technical Commission/Joint Technical Committee). The three technical members of the committee are Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Professor (Cyber Security and Digital Forensics) and Dean, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat; Prabaharan P, Professor (School of Engineering), Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, Kerala; and Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor (Computer Science and Engineering), Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Maharashtra.
Chief Justice NV Ramana began the judgment with a quote from George Orwell’s 1984 -‘If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.’
The order noted that various petitions in the case had been filed by direct victims. Justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done, said the Supreme Court.
‘This court gave ample time to the Centre to disclose all information regarding the Pegasus attack since 2019. However only a limited affidavit was filed throwing no light. If the Centre made its stand clear the burden on us would have been less,’ said the Chief Justice.
The Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had submitted that the government can’t be compelled to disclose whether it is using a particular software for surveillance, as it could alert terror groups. The SG had asserted this issue cannot be made a subject matter of affidavit or public discussion, and instead suggested that a committee constituted by the Union Government itself can examine the allegations of targeted surveillance of activists, journalists, politicians etc., using the Pegasus spyware.