Pegasus row: Centre tells Supreme court it doesn’t wish to file detailed affidavit; court to pass interim order

The Centre on Monday, said the Supreme Court that it does not wish to file a detailed affidavit on a batch of petitions seeking independent probe into the use of Pegasus Spyware, while the top court reserved it’s interim order on the issue.

Supreme court bench led by Chief Justice N V Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the union government, that the centre has two three days to re-think about filing a detailed affidavit in the case.

During the hearing, Mehta said that the government does not wish to file a detailed affidavit in the issue, whether particular software is used or not by the Centre is not a matter for public discussion and making this a part of an affidavit will not be in national interest.

The Centre has nothing to hide, he said adding which is why it has decided to make a committee of domain experts who will look into these Pegasus allegations and the report of the committee of domain experts will be made available to the apex court.

The Apex court, however toldehta that it had already made clear that it did not want the union government to reveal anything which compromises national security.

The court had granted more time to the government on September 7, to decide on filing a further response on the petitions after the Solicitor General said that due to obstacles he couldn’t meet the officials concerned on the filing of the second affidavit.

Earlier, the Central government had filed a limited affidavit in the court saying the pleas seeking independent probe are based on “conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material”.

It said the position on the matter was already clarified by Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in the parliament.

The pleas are in connection with media reports of alleged snooping by the government agencies on Indian citizens, including journalists, politicians, lawyers using the Israeli firm NSO”s spyware Pegasus.

An international media consortium reported that more than 300 verified Indian mobile numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli Spyware.

On August 17, while issuing notice to the Centre on the pleas, the Court had that it did not want the union government to reveal anything related to the national security and had asked what’s the “problem” if the competent authority files an affidavit before it on the matter.

“Our considered response is what we have respectfully stated in our last affidavit. Kindly examine the issue from our point of view as our affidavit is sufficient,” the law officer had told the bench, adding, “The Government of India is before the highest court of the country.”

Therefore, Mehta said that if any country’s government discloses information about which software is used and not used, then those involved in terrorist activities may take precautions.

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