New Delhi: The Centre told the Supreme Court there was ‘nothing to hide’ in the alleged Pegasus snooping matter. The Centre said Monday it will constitute a committee of eminent experts. The committee will examine all the aspects related to the Pegasus snooping case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana deliberated upon the aspect of whether the Centre, which Monday filed a short limited affidavit, should file a detailed affidavit in the matter. The apex court will continue hearing Tuesday a batch of pleas seeking independent probe into the alleged surveillance of certain people in India using the Israeli company’s spyware.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar who have filed one of the petitions in the matter, argued that the Centre should file an affidavit stating whether the government or its agencies have used Pegasus.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose that the Pegasus snooping issue would involve the aspect of national security and the matter is ‘sensitive’. “We are dealing with a sensitive matter and the attempt seems to be to make it sensational,” Mehta told the bench. “There would be an issue of national security,” he added.
At the outset, Mehta told the bench that this snooping issue is ‘highly technical’ and expertise was needed to examine the aspects. “There is nothing to hide. It needs examination by committee of experts. This is a highly technical issue. We will appoint eminent neutral experts from the field,” Mehta told the Supreme Court bench.
Sibal said the affidavit filed by the Centre does not say whether the government or its agencies had used the spyware. “We do not want the government, which might have used Pegasus or its agency might have used it, to set up a committee on its own,” Sibal said.
While contending that petitioners have relied upon news reports published by a web portal, Mehta said, “According to us, a false narrative is created.”
Earlier in the day, the Centre filed an affidavit in the top court and said that a batch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations are based on ‘conjectures and surmises’ or on other unsubstantiated media reports.
In its affidavit, the government said its position on the alleged Pegasus snooping has already been clarified in Parliament by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. “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,” the affidavit said.
With a view to dispelling any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised, the government will constitute a committee of experts, it said.