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SC on Pegasus pleas: ‘Allegations serious if media reports correct; serve copy to Centre’

 The Supreme Court asked all petitioners to serve their petition copy to the Central government and the matter for further hearing on Tuesday (August 10).

SC on Pegasus pleas Allegations serious if media reports correct serve copy to Centre-dnm
Bengaluru, First Published Aug 5, 2021, 12:52 PM IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday said the allegations of Pegasus spyware being used to target opposition leaders, journalists and others are "serious if newspaper reports are correct".

The apex court has asked PIL petitioners, seeking court-monitored SIT probe into alleged hacking and infiltration of phones of journalists, activists and others for snooping by the Centre using anti-terrorism spyware Pegasus, sold by Israel's NSO, to serve copies on Centre for Tuesday hearing.

A two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana, asked all petitioners to serve a copy of their petitions to the government. Justice Surya Kant is the second judge on the bench. The court will take up the please again on Tuesday, saying the centre has to present at the hearing. "Truth has to come out. We don't know whose names are there," it said.

It has been alleged that the Central government allegedly using Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, to snoop on politicians, activists and journalists in the country.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar said, the Information Technology Act never contemplated such an attack - where someone can just call me and immediately get access to my entire phone. So it falls upon the judiciary to be in a vanguard position to protect us from what has happened.

Later, the Supreme Court repeatedly asked Pegasus petitioners why no FIR or criminal complaint has been filed under the relevant provisions if they believe the allegations to be true.

Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas is one of the petitioners. While 3 PILs and the petition by Editors Guild asks for an investigation into the matter, 5 journalists have asked for the orders issued (if any) by the government for the alleged surveillance to be brought on record.

Their counsel Shyam Divan told the SC bench that the petitioners have not filed a complaint because they want the highest authority on surveillance in the government to provide answers on the matter.

During arguments on the matter, Chief Justice NV Ramana observed that there was no doubt the allegations of spying, if true, are serious.

“From what I read this came to light in 2019. There was no serious concern then. We don’t hold anybody at fault for that. The petitioners are resourceful, educated persons. We can’t say that what has been said by reputed journalists is merely hearsay or not believable,” he said.

“No doubt that the allegations about Pegasus are serious if the newspaper reports are correct,” CJI added.

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