The Centre Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it has “nothing to hide” in the Pegasus row and that the matter concerns “national security.”
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana issued a notice to the Centre and said that the government must reply within ten days on allegations that the Israeli spyware was used for snooping, adding it will decide on forming a committee after getting the response. The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the apex court does not want the government to disclose anything which may compromise national security.
Stating that the matter cannot be “subject to a public debate,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the apex court, “These software are purchased by every country and the petitioners want it to be divulged if the software has not been used. If we divulge this then the terrorists can take preventive steps. These are national security issues and we cannot hide anything from the court.”
Mehta further added that the details can be submitted to a committee of experts. “We can divulge this to a committee of experts and it’ll be a neutral body. Would you as a constitutional court expect such issues to be divulged before court & put up for public debate? Committee will place its report before court. But how can we sensationalise the issue.”
The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the allegations of surveillance through the use of Pegasus spyware.
During the hearing on Monday, the Centre “unequivocally” denied all allegations made by the petitioners in the Pegasus matter and told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that “with a view to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised”, it would set up “a Committee of Experts in the field which will go in to all aspects of the issue.
Several petitioners have moved the court seeking a probe into the findings of a global media investigation, that the spyware may have been used to infiltrate phones used by a wide range of targets including critics of the government. The Israeli firm has said that it licenses Pegasus only to “vetted governments” for use against criminals and terrorists.