Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 5
The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into Pegasus snooping controversy on August 10 as it asked the petitioners to serve copies of their respective petition on the Centre.
A Bench led by CJI NV Ramana said that without the Union Government being present in the hearing it cannot proceed in the matter.
During the hearing, the CJI said it was surprising that the Pegasus issue came to light in 2019 and no one made any serious attempt to collect verifiable material about snooping.
“Most PILs are based on newspaper clippings of national and international media,” it noted even as it said, “No doubt that the allegations about Pegasus are serious if the newspaper reports are correct.”
“From what I read this came to light in 2019. There was no serious concern then. We don’t hold anybody at fault for that. The petitioners are resourceful, educated persons. We can’t say that what has been said by reputed journalists is merely hearsay or not believable,” the Bench said.
During the hearing, it repeatedly asked the petitioners why no FIR or criminal complaint was filed under the relevant provisions of law if they believed the allegations were true.
The top court wondered why a number of petitions were being filed two years after the incident came to light.
Kapil Sibal said the petitioners came to know about the gravity later.
Senior advocates Arvind Datar, Rakesh Dwivedi and Shyam Divan – representing various petitioners – demanded an independent probe into the snooping scandal.
The top court is seized of nine petitions, including those filed by the Editors Guild of India and senior journalists N Ram and others, seeking an independent probe into the alleged snooping on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus.
Other petitioners are ML Sharma, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas, Jagdeep Chokkar, Narendra Mishra, journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh Singh, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and others.
An international media consortium had reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.
It has also been reported that phones of a former judge of the Supreme Court and its registrars were allegedly intercepted using the spyware.