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SC defers order on Pegasus snooping row; to set up probe panel

An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that it may set up a technical committee to investigate the allegations of snooping by using the Pegasus spyware and will pass an order on the matter next week.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the order, which was to be pronounced earlier, will now be delivered next week.

“We will be able to finalise the members of technical expert team by next week and then pronounce our orders, the bench said, adding that some experts have expressed their inability to join the probe due to personal reasons.

Justice Ramana said that the court wanted to pass orders this week but the orders were deferred as some members, who the court had wanted to be part of the technical committee, had expressed personal difficulties to be on the committee. “That is why it is taking time to constitute the technical expert committee,” he said.

The top court on September 13 had reserved its order, saying it only wanted to know whether or not the Centre used the Pegasus spyware through illegal methods to allegedly snoop on citizens.

On September 13, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that due to national security reasons it does not wish to file a detailed affidavit clarifying whether Pegasus spyware was used or not, in its response to a batch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the alleged snooping.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had submitted before the top court that the government will disclose all details in connection with the Pegasus case before a panel of domain experts but not on an affidavit for national security reasons.

Mehta emphasized that there are terror organizations, which better not know which software is used to combat terror etc. “It has its own pitfalls”, he added.

The pleas seeking an independent probe are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus.

An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.