The Supreme Court delivered its judgement on Wednesday, pronouncing that the Union of India may decline to provide information when constitutional considerations exist. These may pertain to the security of the state. However, this does not mean it gets a free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is raised. Another hearing will be held after eight weeks.
Also, the SC appointed an expert committee to look into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using the Pegasus software.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli asked a three-member committee, supervised by retired judge Justice RV Raveendran to examine the allegations thoroughly.
Though the SC will not encroach upon national security, it will not be a mute spectator either. This will not even grant a free pass every time the matter of national security is raised. The Apex court said, “They would have reduced our burden, but despite many chances only limited affidavit was given that did not give any clarity”.
What is Pegasus?
Pegasus – A spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cyberarms firm. It was first discovered in 2016, when there was a failed installation attempt on the phone of a human right activist. The act led to an investigation which confirmed it to be spyware. The news caused significant media coverage and is asserted to be the “most sophisticated” smartphone attack ever. According to intelligence obtained by the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’ Pegasus spyware software was sold to the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf States, for surveillance of anti-regime activists, journalists, and political leaders from rival nations.
What Supreme Court said on Pegasus Row
Apex court had said earlier that it will be constituting a committee of technical experts to investigate the matter. CJI Ramana held experts responsible for the delay in order as they denied taking role citing personal problems. The centre clearly denied the allegations of illegal surveillance. The centre in affidavit on August 15 told the Supreme Court that, nevertheless, “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 into all aspects of the issue”. Tushar Mehta- Solicitor General appearing for the centre told the bench that the issue was fraught with “questions of national security”, so it did not want to raise a debate by putting details in a public affidavit. However, it offered to examine the issue by a committee of domain experts. The Solicitor General had then requested the court to allow it to set up a pane, but it was objected by the petitioners.