New Delhi: The Supreme Court will on Thursday hear a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists and journalists.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana will hear the pleas filed by journalists, Editors Guild of India, Rajya Sabha MP and an advocate.
The pleas were filed by senior journalists N Ram, and Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) and advocate ML Sharma.
Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shatakshi, who are reported to be in the potential list of snoop targets of Pegasus spyware, had also approached the top court along with The Editors Guild of India(EGI).
The pleas sought inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the top court to investigate into the alleged snooping.
The petition filed by N Ram, and Sashi Kumar sought a direction to the Centre to disclose if it or any of its agencies have used Pegasus Spyware either directly or indirectly to conduct surveillance in any manner.
The plea said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware 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 Supreme Court in KS Puttaswamy case.
The targeted hacking/interception of inter alia journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), added their petition.
The petitioners have claimed that investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 Indians, including journalists, lawyers, government ministers, opposition politicians, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists, have been identified as "potential targets" for surveillance using Pegasus software.
The Editors Guild of India(EGI) has sought a court-monitored SIT probe into the matter and also sought directions to the Centre to produce details of contracts entered into with foreign companies for deploying spyware for surveillance and the persons against whom such spyware was used.
The plea of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and others have sought direction to decalare that the installation or use of spyware such as Pegasus is illegal and unconstitutional. They said that the alleged unauthorised use of surveillance by government agencies have violated their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
They also sought that direction be issued to the Central government to produce and disclose to the Supreme Court all materials and documents with respect to all investigation, authorisation, and orders pertaining to the use of Pegasus on them.
MP John Brittas in his plea has sought a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on people. The petition has said that despite the very serious nature of the allegations, the government has not cared to investigate into the issue.
Advocate Sharma sought direction for an SIT probe on whether the Union government bought the Pegasus spyware following due procedure of law and whether and how it had been used since the purchase.
Sharma said that in the interest of justice and fair play and for the protection of the life and liberty of the citizens of India, the Supreme Court should pass direction to set up an SIT under the supervision of this court for investigation Pegasus scandal and to prosecute all accused persons/ ministers for buying Pegasus and snooping of the citizen of India, including judges, opposition leaders and political persons, activist, advocates and others.