Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas has moved the Supreme Court to seek a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the reports of snopping being done via the Pegasus spyware on activists, intellectuals, journalists and politicians, amongst others.
The petition makes the case that the Government of India is yet to deny the use of the Israeli spyware, created by the company NSO. Statements given by the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnav in parliament, have been used in the petition to make this case. Vaishnav's number has himself appeared in the list of 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets for surveilance between 2017-2019. The minister was recently inducted into PM Modi's cabinet as his Minister of Railways as well.
Vaishnav had said that 'no authorised interception' had taken place, raising eyebrows as one was left asking if the interception was authorised at all. The government has not clarified how this interception is authorised according to law, Live Law reports.
The plea also includes how a potential target was also the Supreme Court staffer who had raised sexual harassment allegations against the former CJI Ranjan Gogoi. It also includes the possibility of a SC judge being a target as well.
"It is only an evasive statement from the Government. The Government has unequivocally accepted the statement of the company, NSO, which owns the alleged spyware technology and nlindly accepted their version without any investigation," the plea reads, according to Live Law.
Brittas says through his petition that considering how the government is not looking into the allegations, he was constrainted to approach the top court as the fundamental right to privacy was at stake. He also pointed out to the gross abuse of state's surveillance powers.
"If the Pegasus Spyware was used in an unauthorized manner that is in violation of fundamental rights under Articles 19(1)(a) and 21 and also as a slap on the face of the right to privacy upheld by this Hon'ble Court in Puttaswamy case. There is also violation of the provisions of IT Act& Indian Telegraph Act for which strict penal action needs to be done after an immediate, independent and transparent," the plea reads.
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