The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court there was "nothing to hide" in the alleged Pegasus snooping matter and it will constitute a committee of eminent experts to examine all the aspects related to the issue.
This assurance came after senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Rakesh Dwivedi and Meenakshi Arora sought a direct answer on oath as to whether the government used the Pegasus spyware or not. Countering these arguments, Solicitor General Tushar told the Supreme Court that the Pegasus issue was a sensitive one, and that attempts were being made to turn it into a sensational one. He submitted that it will be a question of national security if this matter is examined in the top court.
Mehta also told the bench that this issue is "highly technical" and expertise was needed to examine the aspects.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana was deliberating upon whether the Centre, which on Monday filed a short and limited affidavit, should file a detailed affidavit in the matter.
Sibal said the affidavit filed by the Centre does not say whether the government or its agencies had used the spyware.
While submitting that petitioners have relied upon news reports published by a web portal, Mehta said, "According to us, a false narrative has been created".
In its affidavit, the government said its position on the alleged Pegasus snooping has already been clarified in Parliament by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
"A bare perusal of the captioned petition and other connected petitions makes it clear that the same are based on conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material," the affidavit said.
"We have denied all allegations...the IT Minister has clarified that a web portal published a sensational story before Parliament session began. There is nothing to hide or that needs examination. It's a scientific thing and we will appoint a neutral body of persons and experts to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised. What more can the Centre do? This is transparency," said the Solicitor General.
Mehta impressed upon the Court the need to have a committee of experts appointed only by the government to look into issue.
To this, CJI Ramana queried,
"How will the technical committee check what authorizations have been given? What contracts were signed with respect to the issue of permission, sanction, procurement, non- procurement, etc?"
SG Mehta replied that the Court can come up with the terms of reference of the committee of experts.
"There is nothing to hide, you can confer the jurisdiction upon the committee," said Mehta.
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