Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 13
The Supreme Court on Monday said it only wanted to know whether or not the Pegasus spyware was used through illegal methods to allegedly snoop on citizens after the Centre stoutly refused to file an affidavit citing national security on pleas seeking an independent probe into the snooping row.
Why beat about the bush, asks court
Mr Mehta, you’ve been beating about the bush… We were only expecting an affidavit… You only had to say whether it has been done or not. CJI-led Bench
Can’t file affidavit, Not in national interest, says centre
The Solicitor General vehemently referred to the threat to national security and said the government didn’t wish to file a detailed affidavit as this was not in national interest.
Reiterating it was not interested in knowing issues related to national security, the SC said it would pass an interim order on petitions seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into alleged snooping on politicians, journalists and activists. “Hearing is concluded. Order is reserved,” a Bench led by CJI NV Ramana said after hearing arguments from various parties on the issue. The development came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the government didn’t want to file any additional affidavit to publicly clarify if Pegasus was used for snooping or not even if he maintained that the Centre had nothing to hide.
“You have repeatedly been saying that the government doesn’t want to file an affidavit. We also don’t want any security issues to be put before us. You say that a committee will be formed and the report will be submitted… We have to look into the whole issue and pass an interim order,” the Bench told Mehta.
As Mehta insisted that the matter should be examined by a panel of experts and the report should be submitted to the top court and then the court could decide if the report would be put in the public domain or not, the Bench said such a decision would not take the issue anywhere.
“Mr Mehta, you have been beating about the bush and that’s not the question here,” the Bench told the Solicitor General. Mehta said if there was a rethinking in the government on filing a detailed affidavit, he would bring it to the court’s notice.
“We are reserving orders. We will pass an interim order. It will take two-three days. If you have some re-thinking on this, you can mention the matter before us,” the Bench told the Solicitor General.
On Mehta citing national security as a reason for not making it public, the Bench said, “We are not interested to know about national interest issues… but we want to know about the allegations that some software was used to snoop on certain citizens like lawyers etc. We wanted to know if it’s done and to see if it’s permissible under law.”
On behalf of various petitioners, senior advocates Kapil Sibal, AM Singhvi, Shyam Divan, Rakesh Dwivedi, Meenakshi Arora and Colin Gonsalves insisted that the government must disclose if the controversial software was used in India or not as it was a question of violation of fundamental rights of citizens.