Stating that the nature of allegations in the Pegasus snooping scandal relates to violation of fundamental rights and “could have chilling effect”, the Supreme Court ordered the setting up of an expert committee overseen by a retired Supreme Court judge to probe the use of Pegasus Spyware.
A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said there has been “no specific denial” by Centre (about use of Pegasus) and added that the Centre cannot get a free pass every time by raising national security concerns.
“We issued notice to the government. We gave ample opportunity to the government to give details of all action taken by it. But despite repeated chances they gave limited affidavit that does not give clarity. If they had clarified they would have reduced the burden on us. But that does not mean state gets a free pass every time national security is raised,” the Supreme Court said.
The three-member Technical Committee set up by the court will be overseen by former Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran, along former IPS officer Alok Joshi and Dr Sundeep Oberoi.
The committee’s report has to be handed in to the court by the next hearing, two months later.
While passing the order , the Court said, it will not encroach upon national security but that does not make the court a mute spectator.
The court acknowledged that there can be restrictions on this fundamental right for national security but added that the government must prove the facts which indicate that the information sought must be kept secret as their divulgence would affect national security concerns. They must justify the stand that they take before a Cour
The top court was hearing 12 petitions in the matter, including those filed by the Editors Guild of India; journalists N Ram and Shashi Kumar, Pranjoy Guha Thakurta; Trinamool Congress leader Yashwant Sinha; and academic Jagdeep S Chhokar.