Supreme Court to hear petitions demanding probe into Pegasus row on August 5

The Supreme Court will be hearing a clutch of petitions seeking a special probe into the Pegasus snoopgate involving allegations that opposition politicians, journalists, activists and others were targets of the Israeli spyware.

According to the cause list uploaded on the Supreme Court website, a bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant would hear on August 5 three separate petitions seeking probe into the Pegasus scandal.

The petitions include the one filed by senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, who have sought an independent probe by a sitting or a retired judge.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Ram and Sashi Kumar, had said that the civil liberties of citizens, politicians belonging to Opposition parties, journalists and court staff were at stake as they were put under surveillance. He said that Pegasus snooping row was making waves in India and all over the world.

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 (equality before the law), 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) by the Supreme Court, said the plea, filed by the two journalists.

CIPM MP John Brittas and advocate ML Sharma have also petitioned the top court to direct the government to disclose whether it has obtained a licence for the spyware or used it — directly or indirectly — to conduct surveillance of any kind.

In his plea, ML Sharma has sought a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the reports of alleged snooping.

According to the pleas, the snooping represented an attempt by agencies and organisations to muzzle the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India.

An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware.