Journalists N Ram and Shashi Kumar Approach SC for Enquiry into Pegasus Scandal

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Their petition also seeks to know the name of agency or agencies which have obtained licence for the Israeli spyware

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — Journalists N Ram and Shashi Kumar have moved the Supreme Court seeking probe into the Pegasus snooping row. The petition filed by the duo urges the apex court to issue direction for an independent enquiry by a sitting or retired judge into the allegations that the government agencies hired the services of NSO, an Israeli company that has produced Pegasus spyware, to hack into the phones of opposition leaders, government officials, activists and journalists between 2017 and 2019.

Earlier, two petitions seeking enquiry into the Pegasus scandal have already been filed in the Supreme Court.

The latest petition, according to Live Law, notes that a group of globally reputed media organisations including The Guardian, Washington Post, Le Monde and The Wire have published reports saying that a data leak showed more than 5,000 phone numbers including 142 from India were on the list as potential targets of hacking by Pegasus spyware.

The petition further urges the top court to order the Union of India to reveal whether the Central government or any of its agencies have obtained a licence for Pegasus spyware and employed it for surveillance in any manner.

“Has targeted surveillance been conducted on journalists, doctors, lawyers, opposition politicians, ministers, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists by illegally hacking into their phones using the Pegasus spyware?” the petitioners ask. “What are the implications of such a hack?”

The petition cites that an investigation by Amnesty International has confirmed Pegasus induced security breaches in devices used by journalists, activists and politicians.

Ram as well as Kumar are both senior and well-respected figures in India’s journalistic community. They have approached the Supreme Court on the ground that Pegasus is a military spyware and use of such hacking software for surveillance “is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by the Supreme Court in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017) 10 SCC 1.

They argue that the attack by Pegasus targeting journalists and activists is a violation of the right to free speech and has “obvious chilling effect on free expression” as it threatens invasion into core aspects of personal life.

Furthermore, the petition also alleges that the provisions for surveillance by designated government agencies under Telegraph Act have been bypassed in the present case.

Hacking by Pegasus software constitutes a criminal offence punishable under law, argues the petition.

Despite growing calls for answers, the Modi government has stayed short of answering even in the Parliament whether any of the agencies has brought Pegasus software for surveillance.

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