The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it would set up an expert panel to look into the Pegasus scandal even as it denied allegations of snooping on politicians, journalists and activists.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology unequivocally denied the allegations levelled by various petitioners who have demanded an SIT probe into the matter.
However, it said “…with a view to dispelling any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised, the Union of India will constitute a committee of experts in the field which will go into all aspects of the issue.”
Opposing the petitions, the Centre said, “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. It is submitted that the same cannot be the basis for invoking the writ jurisdiction of this Hon’ble Court.”
The questions surrounding the Pegasus scandal had already been clarified by Communications and Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in Parliament, it submitted.
A Bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana is to take up the Centre’s affidavit during the day.
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 had also been reported that phones of a former judge of the Supreme Court and its registrars were allegedly intercepted using the spyware.
The top court had on August 5 expressed surprise that the Pegasus issue came to light in 2019 and no one made any serious attempt to collect verifiable material about snooping.
On August 10, it had deferred to August 16 the hearing on petitions seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into Pegasus snooping controversy even as it took exception to parallel debates on social media and websites by some petitioners.
Maintaining that it wasn’t against debates, a Bench led by Chief Justice Ramana had, however, said when the matter was pending in the court, “it should be deliberated upon here” and the petitioners should observe discipline.
Earlier, the top court had agreed to hear petitions seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the Pegasus snooping controversy.
Former BJP ideologue KN Govindacharya has also filed a plea seeking an independent probe into the scandal.