Editors Guild moves Supreme Court on Pegasus issue

Updated on Aug 04, 2021 04:22 AM IST

The Supreme Court may take up the petition on August 5 when a bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana holds a hearing on a bunch of petitions filed earlier on the alleged use of the military-grade spyware.

The Indian government has neither confirmed nor denied that it used Pegasus and has ruled out any illegal surveillance. (AFP)
The Indian government has neither confirmed nor denied that it used Pegasus and has ruled out any illegal surveillance. (AFP)
ByHT Correspondent, New Delhi

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court to seek an independent investigation into the alleged purchase and use of Israeli spyware Pegasus in India to target phones of journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even ministers.

EGI also asked the top court to order the Union government to produce contracts or deals with foreign companies for the supply of spyware, hacking or electronic surveillance which have been used, whether authorised or not, on Indian citizens.

“The Pegasus cyber attacks have raised severe questions as to the integrity of several democratic institutions and the political process. Amongst names on the list of potential targets is included a former Election Commissioner (Ashok Lavasa), several members of the Opposition, and political strategists. If unaddressed, this can shake the public faith in democratic processes, and create a chilling effect, which is poisonous to the health of any democracy,” EGI’s petition, reviewed by HT, said.

The Supreme Court may take up the petition on August 5 when a bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana holds a hearing on a bunch of petitions filed earlier on the alleged use of the military-grade spyware.

Among those who have already filed petitions for an independent probe are five journalists, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shataksi, who were reported to be in the potential list of alleged surveillance using the software.

Tuesday’s petition by EGI said: “Freedom of the press relies on non-interference by the government and its agencies in reporting of journalists, including their ability to securely and confidentially speaking with sources, investigate abuse of power and corruption, expose governmental incompetence, and speak with those in opposition to the government”.

The Pegasus row erupted on July 18 after an international investigative consortium reported that many Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were among the 50,000 numbers that were potentially targeted by the Israeli company NSO Group’s phone hacking software. NSO says its software is sold only to government customers. The Indian government has neither confirmed nor denied that it used Pegasus and has ruled out any illegal surveillance.

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