New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear next week the plea of senior journalist N Ram seeking an independent probe by a sitting or a retired judge into the Pegasus snooping scandal.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of the submissions of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Ram and veteran scribe Sashi Kumar, that the petition has been filed and numbered and needed to be heard in view of the large ramifications of the alleged snooping.
“We will list it sometime in next week,” the CJI said.
The plea said the alleged snooping represented an attempt by agencies and organisations to muzzle and chill the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India.
“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,” it added.
It further said the targeted hacking of phones belonging to journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians “seriously compromises” the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
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.
However, the government as well as the Israeli company the NSO Group, which developed the Pegasus spyware, had categorically rejected all allegations of snooping and termed the report as ”baseless and unfounded.”