Wednesday, January 26

India’s Supreme Court constitutes inquiry committee to probe Pegasus scandal

In the midst of the Pegasus snooping controversy, the Supreme Court of India has finally formed a three-member committee of inquiry into the Pegasus scandal. 

With the help of Israeli software, the Modi government has been accused of eavesdropping on the phones of opposition leaders, judges, social activists and journalists. 

The Modi led government has tried its level best to prove that pegasus was used for  national security but the apex court on Wednesday made it clear that ‘national security is not always an excuse. The government cannot avoid everything in this way. 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed an independent expert technical committee overseen by a former apex court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, to examine allegations that the government used an Israeli spyware, Pegasus, to snoop on its own citizens. 

Moreover, the government could not give a clear answer as to whether the spyware was used or not. That is why the court cannot be a silent spectator. 

Today the highest court started with a line from the British writer George Orwell’s novel ‘Nineteen Eighteen’ – ‘If you want to keep something secret, you have to keep it a secret from yourself.’ 

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The Modi government wanted to set up a special committee to investigate the Pegasus scandal. However, Modi’s government made repeated requests to the Supreme Court to keep the matter in their own hands but the apex court did not listen to that plea. 

On the contrary, a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramna today decided to form a three-member inquiry committee on its own. 

The committee includes Nabin Kumar Chowdhury, Dean, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar, P Prabharan, Professor, Amrita Bishwa Vidyapeeth, Kerala, and Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Associate Professor, Chair, Institute of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay. Retired Supreme Court Justice RV Rabindran will oversee the work of the committee. He will be assisted by former Indian Police Service cadre Alok Joshi and Dr. Sandeep Oberoi. Supreme Court’s Officer on Special Duty VK Bansal will coordinate between them. 

The committee will look into the Supreme Court’s order as soon as possible to find out whether the allegations of eavesdropping on Pegasus are true or not. 

The members will also review the role of the government in this regard. The Central and State Governments will provide all possible assistance to the work of the committee. The report is expected to be submitted within the next eight weeks.

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The Pegasus controversy erupted after an investigation by a global media consortium based on leaked targeting data claimed evidence that the military-grade malware from the NSO Group was being used to spy on Indian politicians, journalists, human rights activists and others. This was being done by the influence of Modi led Government in India. 

Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli cyberarms firm NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones (and other devices) running most versions of iOS and Android. The 2021 Project Pegasus revelations suggest that the current Pegasus software can exploit all recent iOS versions up to iOS 14.6.

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