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India

Pegasus Scandal: SC Asks Petitioners to Serve Plea Copy to Govt, Says Charge ‘Serious if Reports True’

The petitions include those filed by the Editors Guild of India and senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, seeking independent probe into the alleged snooping using Israeli firm NSO's spyware Pegasus.

Supreme Court
Supreme Court has been hearing a slew of pleas challenging the validity of the law on sedition. (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked all petitioners in the Pegasus snooping scandal to serve a copy of their petition to the Centre so that somebody from the government is present to accept notice and posted the matter for hearing on Tuesday, August 10.

A two-member bench said allegations of the Pegasus spyware being used to snoop on opposition leaders, journalists and activists are serious if media reports on the expose are true. The bench was headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana with Justice Surya Kant being the second judge.

The petitions include those filed by the Editors Guild of India and senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, seeking independent probe into the alleged snooping using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus.

The judges asked some questions at the outset from senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Editors Guild and senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar. “Before going into all that, we have certain questions. No doubt, the allegations are serious, if the reports are true,” the CJI observed and raised the issue of delay, saying the matter had come to light way back in 2019.

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“Reports of snooping came to light in 2019. I do not know whether any efforts were made to get more information,” CJI Ramana observed, adding that he did not want to say that it was an impediment.

The top court said it was not going into the facts of each case and if some people claimed that their phones were intercepted then there is the Telegraph Act under which complaints can be filed.

“I can explain. We do not have access to many materials. The petitions have information about 10 cases of direct infiltration into phones,” Sibal said.

The apex court asked the counsel appearing for the petitioners to serve the copy of the pleas to the Centre. “Let them serve copies of the petition to the government. Somebody should appear for the government to take notice,” the bench said.

“We do not know in which matter we will issue notice. Let them come before us to accept the notices and then we will see,” the bench said.

The court was hearing nine petitions, including those filed by the Editors Guild and senior journalists seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter. The pleas relate 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.