New Delhi: Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) leader and Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas has approached the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.
The petition said that despite the very serious nature of the allegations, the government has not cared to investigate the issue.
“In such circumstances, the petitioner is constrained to approach the Supreme Court as the issue involves citizens’ fundamental right to privacy and gross abuse of the state’s surveillance powers,” stated the plea.
“If the Pegasus Spyware was used in an unauthorised manner that is in violation of fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(a) and 21 and also a slap on the face of the right to privacy upheld by this Court in Puttaswamy case. There is also a violation of the provisions of IT Act and Indian Telegraph Act for which strict penal action needs to be done after an immediate, independent and transparent investigation,” the plea added.
The plea referred to the statements made by the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw in the Parliament where he said that “no unauthorized interception” has taken place, giving rise to an inferential question if the interception was authorised. “However, the government is not forthcoming with a statement on how such interception has been authorised,” the plea added.
The petition said that Union Minister Vaishnaw has neither denied nor admitted the snooping by spyware.
The plea further called the Minister’s statement as ‘evasive’ and said the government has unequivocally accepted the statement of the company, NSO, which owns the alleged spyware technology and blindly accepted their version without any investigation.
“The government needs to appraise the reasons for the interceptions made to the gadgets of its own ministers, staff, Constitutional authorities including Election Commissioners and Judges, CBI officers, Supreme Court staffer, activists, scientists and journalists,” the petition said.
“The Pegasus Spyware allegations gives two inferences- it was done by the Indian government or by a foreign agency. If it is done by the Indian government it is done in an unauthorised manner. The spending of sovereign amount for personal and political interests of the ruling party cannot be permitted. If it is done by some foreign agency, it is an act of external aggression which also needs to be dealt in a serious manner,” the plea said further.
The petition added that infiltrating phones or computers using such methods comprises “hacking”, is a punishable offence under the Information Technology Act, 2000 and violation of the guidelines issued by this Court.