Government Refuses To File Affidavit On Use Of Pegasus Software
The Supreme Court of India on Monday reserved its interim order on petitions seeking an inquiry into the Pegasus issue. The court observed that it had granted a fair opportunity to the central government to present its view on the petitions through a detailed affidavit.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta repeated the government's earlier stance that it would not like to file an affidavit since the issue involves questions of national security.
The bench observed that it is not going to look into the issues of national security but will only examine the allegations of the software being used against certain citizens.
Digital platform The Wire has so far reported names of 151 individuals—journalists, politicians, activists—whose phones could've been targets of illegal surveillance. Post this, some journalists along with Editors Guild of India and Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas and others, came to the top court seeking formation of a special investigating team.
The government had earlier proposed to set up a committee of technical experts to look into the issue. The solicitor general on Monday re-iterated that proposal.
It is my assurance that domain experts will not have any direct or indirect relationship with the government, Mehta said.
The petitioners want this in public domain through affidavits. I am saying that let domain experts go into the issue and place it before the court. That is the distinction. The government has nothing to hide.Solicitor General of India
But the petitioners argued that revealing whether the software was used is not detrimental to national interest. "It is our allegation that the government wants to hide the facts," Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said while arguing for the petitioners.
Sibal pointed out that Germany has recently accepted the use of the software and there is no reason that the government should not answer the query of the petitioners.
In cases related to violation of fundamental rights, the state cannot act as an adversary. Why can’t the government say whether Pegasus was used or not? The fact that they have not denied it shows they have used it.Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal
The court should not allow the government to set up a committee, Sibal said.
While reserving its interim order, the Supreme Court bench presided by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said the government can still file an affidavit within the next two-three days if it reconsiders its position.