New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday (July 30) agreed to hear next week the plea of senior journalist N Ram and Sashi Kumar seeking an independent probe by a sitting or a retired judge into the Pegasus snooping matter.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of the submissions of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Ram and Sashi Kumar, that the petition has been filed and needed to be heard in view of the large ramifications of the alleged snooping.
“We will list it sometime in next week,” the CJI said.
The plea said the alleged snooping represented an attempt by agencies and organisations to muzzle and chill the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India.
“Direct the Government of India to disclose if the Government of India or any of its agencies have obtained license(s) for Pegasus spyware and/or used/employed it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner whatsoever. Issue direction of constituting an inquiry to investigate the extent of surveillance on Indian citizens using the Pegasus spyware and other entities reponsible for it, headed by sitting or retired judge of this court duly nominated by this court,” stated the plea.
The petitioners have claimed that investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 Indians, including journalists, lawyers, government ministers, opposition politicians, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists, have been identified as “potential targets” for surveillance using Pegasus software.
The targeted hacking, interception of inter alia journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), added the petition.
An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware.
(With inputs from ANI)