AS India’s defence ministry denies any transaction with the Pegasus makers, the Supreme Court of India will resume hearing a batch of petitions related to the alleged use of the Israeli spyware by the government on its several critics on August 16. Chief Justice NV Ramana alongside Justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant briefly heard the petitions on Tuesday, 10 August, seeking an independent probe into the alleged targeted surveillance by the Govt on its several opponents including journalists and politicians Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked for time till Friday, 13 August, to get instructions from the Centre. CJI Ramana said the court would take up the matters on Monday, 16 August as he is not available on Friday. The bench urged parties to the case to refrain from engaging in “parallel debates” about the issue, including on social media (while not restricting them from doing so). “Any of the parties who have come before the court, we expect them to make their arguments and answer questions in the court hall. They must have some faith in the system rather than speaking outside. You all have come to the court and you speak through the counsels. We don’t want parallel debates. You have faith in the system. There must be discipline,” observed CJI Ramana.
Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have been filed by advocate ML Sharma, journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas, and the Editors Guild of India. Besides, Writ petitions have been lodged by people whose names feature on the list of potential Pegasus snooping targets, including journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, and Rupesh Kumar Singh, as well as electoral reforms activist Jagdeep Chhokar. SC had earlier refrained from issuing a formal notice to the Central government noting that there are too many writ petitions and instead asked the parties to serve copies of the petitions on the government. Pegasus spyware has been developed by Israel’s NSO GroupIt. It is alleged that the spyware was used in India to snoop on politicians, activists and journalists. The government after making a suo moto statement in Rajya Sabha is not yielding to Opposition parties demand for a full fledged debate in parliament resulting in a logjam in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Meanwhile, as per the schedule, the Monsoon Session of Parliament which commenced on July 19 will conclude on August 13. Edited by PKC