SC Orders Independent Probe Into Pegasus

Ruling that the state does not get a free pass every time the spectre of national security is raised, the Supreme Court appointed a committee comprising three technical members and supervised by its retired judge Justice R V Raveendran to conduct a “thorough inquiry” into allegations of use of Pegasus software for unauthorised surveillance.

 

Important Highlights:

  • A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said the committee will “enquire, investigate and determine”
  • Whether the Pegasus suite of spyware was used on phones or other devices of the citizens of India to access stored data, eavesdrop on conversations, intercept information and/or for any other purposes not explicitly stated herein;
  • The details of the victims and/or persons affected by such a spyware attack;
  • What steps/actions have been taken by the Respondent-Union of India after reports were published in the year 2019 about hacking of WhatsApp accounts of Indian citizens, using the Pegasus suite of spyware;
  • Whether any Pegasus suite of spyware was acquired by the Respondent Union of India, or any State Government, or any central or state agency for use against the citizens of India;
  • If any governmental agency has used the Pegasus suite of spyware on the citizens of this country, under what law, rule, guideline, protocol or lawful procedure was such deployment made;
  • If any domestic entity/person has used the spyware on the citizens of this country, then is such a use authorised;
  • Any other matter or aspect which may be connected, ancillary or incidental to the above terms of reference, which the Committee may deem fit and proper to investigate.

 

It will also make recommendations:

  • Regarding enactment or amendment to existing law and procedures surrounding surveillance and for securing improved right to privacy;
  • Regarding enhancing and improving the cyber security of the nation and its assets;
  • To ensure prevention of invasion of citizens’ right to privacy, otherwise than in accordance with law, by State and/or non­State entities through such spywares;
  • Regarding the establishment of a mechanism for citizens to raise grievances on suspicion of illegal surveillance of their devices;
  • Regarding the setting up of a well-equipped independent premier agency to investigate cyber security vulnerabilities, for threat assessment relating to cyberattacks and to investigate instances of cyberattacks in the country;
  • Regarding any ad­hoc arrangement that may be made by this Court as an interim measure for the protection of citizen’s rights, pending filling up of lacunae by the Parliament;
  • On any other ancillary matter that the Committee may deem fit and proper.