The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that it will not file a detailed affidavit in response to a batch of pleas seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus scandal and cited “national security” as the reason for its inability to divulge details.
During the hearing, solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the apex court that a “façade” has been created that the government does not want to reveal things adding that The government has nothing to hide. Reiterating Centre’s stand, Mehta said that the government has on its own said that it will constitute a committee of domain experts who will look into these allegations.
“The experts will be able to find out whether the petitioners are right or wrong,” he said. “The experts will have no relation with the government. And the committee will be answerable to the lordships.” Mehta told the bench that report of the committee of domain experts will be made available to the apex court.
The top court told Mehta that it had already made clear that it did not want the government to disclose anything which compromises national security.
The headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana reserved its interim order on the matter after hearing the petitioners and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
“We are reserving order. We will pass some interim order. It will take two-three days. If you have some re-thinking on this, you can mention the matter before us,” the bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, told the law officer.
On September 7, the apex court had granted more time to the Centre to decide on filing a further response on the petitions after Mehta had said that due to some difficulties he could not meet the officials concerned to take a decision on the filing of the second affidavit.
The Centre had earlier filed a limited affidavit in the top court saying the pleas seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations are based on “conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material”.
In its limited affidavit filed in the court, the Centre had said the position on the issue has already been clarified in Parliament by Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
With a view to dispelling any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and examining the issues raised, the government will constitute a committee of experts, it had said.
The pleas 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.
The top court, while issuing notice to the Centre on the pleas on August 17, had said that it did not want the government to disclose anything related to the national security and had asked the Centre what is the “problem” if the competent authority files an affidavit before it on the issue.