After issuing a pre-admission notice to the union of India in the Pegasus snooping case, the Supreme Court today said that it will deliberate upon the course of action and meet in 10 days.
Yesterday, the apex court had adjourned the hearing to determine whether the Centre wanted to file an additional affidavit in the matter. According to the Wire, a member of the global consortium of media organisations which exposed the snooping, at least 40 journalists in the country targets or potential targets of the spyware. They include independent journalists as well as employees of the Indian Express, Hindustan Times, India Today, and Wire.
Regarding the formation of a committee to look into the matter, the court said that it would then decide the kind of committee that would be formed. The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, said, “We had thought a comprehensive reply would come but it was a limited reply. We will see, we will also think and consider what can be done.”
'I don't wish to tell it publicly'
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said the Centre refused to file an additional affidavit in the Pegasus issue and could not allow it to become a matter of public debate amid national security concerns.
He said, “All petitions have prayed for an inquiry by the Supreme Court. Yesterday, their stand was whether Pegasus was used or not, and nothing beyond that. Under the rules, software can be used for security purposes and the government will never divulge the software for security reasons. These are issues of national security.”
Furthermore, Mehta said that such information would only be placed before an expert committee and that the petitioners should not insist on the same.
The bench replied: “We will not ask you to disclose anything that will compromise the defence of our country. But here, the issue is different; there are people alleging hacking of their phones. In the case of civilians also rules permit it, but only on permission by competent authority. What is the problem if that competent authority files an affidavit before us?”
The court then stated that it would issue a simple notice and let a competent authority under the rules take a decision as to what extent of information is to be disclosed, which would determine the further course of action.
Mehta additionally argued that divulging information about the kind of defence that is used or not used would allow terrorist organisations to accordingly take preemptive measures. He told the court, “I’m not saying I will not tell anyone, I just wish to not say it publicly.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the petitioners also do not want any information regarding the security of the state. However, he said a reply is warranted as to whether Pegasus as a technology was used.