New Delhi: Allegations of Pegasus-related snooping are “serious in nature” if reports on them are correct, the Supreme Court said on Thursday and asked the petitioners seeking probe into the Israeli spyware matter whether they have made any efforts to file criminal complaint on this.
A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant stopped short of issuing notice on the pleas and took exception that one of the petitions has made individuals (Prime Minister and Union Home Minister) as parties. The apex court, which asked the petitioners to serve the copies of the pleas to the Centre so that somebody from the government is present before it on August 10 to accept notice, also questioned why the matter has suddenly cropped up now when it had come to light back in 2019.
The bench told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, that petitioners in the matter are educated and knowledgeable persons and they should have made efforts to put more material together.
“Before going into all that, we want to ask certain questions. No doubt the allegations are serious in nature if the reports in the newspapers are correct,” the bench observed. The bench said it has read from these writ petitions that the matter came into light two years ago (in May 2019). “They should have done more focused efforts or hard work to put more materials. At the same time, we cannot say that there is absolutely no material,” the bench observed, adding, it do not want to say that these reports are not believable.
The top court said some of the petitioners have claimed that their phones were hacked or intercepted. “You know there are provisions under the Telegraph Act or the Information Technology Act to file criminal complaints,” it said. “It appears, I do not know, nowhere it is stated whether they have made any efforts to file criminal complaints against any of them.”
Sibal told the bench that petitioners had no access to the information earlier and Pegasus spyware is sold only to the government and its agencies. He said as per reports, journalists, public figures, constitutional functionaries, court registrars and others were targeted and the government should be asked about it.
When he said that a report about a number of former members of judiciary being also there in the list, the bench said, “Truth has to come out, we don't know whose names are there.” Sibal said Pegasus was a “rouge technology” and was entirely illegal as it “infiltrated into our life without our knowing”.
An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.