Amid Pegasus row, investigative panel set up by Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court of India ordered an inquiry by setting up an independent committee to find out the truth against the allegation charged against the Government of India on using Pegasus Surveillance Software for illegal spying.

A bench of Cheif Justice of India N V Ramana appointed the committee which will be supervised by retired judge Justice RV Raveendran along with three technical members- Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Professor and Dean at National Forensic Science University, Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institue chair associate professor at Indian Institue of Technology Bombay. Former IPS officer Alok Joshi and Sundeep Oberoi, Chairman subcommittee in the International Organisation of Standardisation will also assist the committee formed.

Petitions were filed for the independent investigation in the matter, after which Supreme Court gave its ruling. The bench also comprising of Justice Suryakant and Hima Kohli assigned the task of investigation and enquiry to determine: (1) Whether the Pegasus spyware software was used to invade private information of citizens of India by cyber attacking their phones or other devices. (2) Details of victims of any such attack by the spyware software. (3) Respondent union of India’s steps or action taken against the report of hacking of WhatsApp accounts of Indian citizens by pegasus spyware in 2019. (4) Whether respondent Union Government of India or any State Government used the spyware to invade the right to privacy of Indian citizens. (5) If any governmental agency probed into the private data using the Pegasus software and under what law/ guideline? (6) If any domestic entity/person has used the spyware against Indian citizens. (7) Any other matter that the committee deemed fit to be investigated.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India, N V Ramana also assigned the committee with the task of any recommendation (1) Regarding needed amendment to existing law and procedure regarding surveillance. (2) Needed improvement in the cyber security of the nation and it’s assets. (3) Endure the right to privacy of citizens by preventing any spyware to breech in, otherwise in accordance by law stated by State or non- State entities. (4) Develop a mechanism to raise the grievances of the victims of any such cyber-attack. (5) Formulate a well developed independent premier agency to investigate security vulnerabilities for assessment of threats of cyberattacks. (6) Regarding any ad­hoc arrangement that may be made by this Court as an interim measure for the protection of citizen’s rights, pending filling up of lacunae by the Parliament. (7) Any other ancillary matter deemed fit.

The Centre took a stand for setting up a committee for the investigation on its own, but the Supreme Court refused, “the state does not get a free pass every time the spectacle of national security is raised.” Later in a press conference, Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi remarked, “PM not above the nation.” And further, supported the Supreme Court’s latest verdict.

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