In a set back to the BJP led Union government, the Supreme Court on Thursday noted that the allegations of snooping through the use of Israeli spyware named Pegasus were serious if the reports were correct.
It asked the lawyers appearing in the nine petitions seeking a probe into the alleged snooping to serve copies of their petitions on the Government of India, legal news sources reported.
“No doubt, the allegations are serious, if the reports are true,” the Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said.
He raised the issue of why were petitions being filed now when the first reports about the use of Pegasus spyware surfaced in 2019.
He also asked why first information reports were not filed by the people who were allegedly snooped upon, given that most of them are prominent politicians and journalists.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, who appeared for journalists Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shataski, who were in the Pegasus targets list, said the provisions under the current law do not allow for filing an FIR, and the court should treat this matter like a class action lawsuit.
On the issue of why the petitions were filed now, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal who represented for N.Ram and Sasikumar said the extent of spying has became clear only after recent allegations,
He further said individuals have no means to access the materials as Pegasus sells its services only to Governments.
In a separate development, India’s ex-minister for electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned the opposition on the issue of Pegasus related surveillance and snooping allegations, and said there was no evidence that was being presented to support their claims.
“There is no prima facie evidence. Just before the onset of the parliamentary session a campaign orchestrated by many of the elements hostile to present government comes out,” the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader said at a press conference streamed live from the BJP’s social media handles.
He further said that the opposition has not presented any proof that Pegasus spyware was used to tap into the phone numbers that were alleged to have been targeted by recent revelations.
“We are ready for a discussion in Parliament. When the Minister made a statement on the issue, these people tore it in front of him. These people are not serious,” Prasad added.
However in contrast to the ousted minister statement Modi led BJP Government refused to conduct discussion inside that was the prime demand of entire oppostion in India . This leads to wash out and protests both inside outside parliament premises entire session of parliament and in a unprecendented manner passed 12 law acts with out any discussion..
The government has previously denied claims that it had used spyware Pegasus to “compromise” the phone data of some persons.
The list includes senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor, and even the new IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
The entire Opposition walked out last month after the minister’s statement and both houses of Parliament were adjourned.
Vaishnaw, in his statement in the Parliament earlier, said such level of snooping by government wasn’t possible.
He added the snooping allegations report had appeared a day before the monsoon session this was not a coincidence. They had appeared earlier as well and had been refuted. And India had “robust” systems to prevent illegal surveillance, he said.
In October 2019, WhatsApp had sued the NSO Group, an Israeli firm that had developed and sold a software called Pegasus.
This software misused the Facebook-owned messaging platform to spy on 1,400 people globally, of which 121 were Indians, according to WhatsApp.
The NSO Group has always maintained that it sells its software only to governments.
However, in July this year, fresh revelations came to light where hundreds of people in India and globally were reported to be on the list of targets of surveillance by Pegasus.