Supreme Court-appointed committee submits interim report

New Delhi:

The panel of experts appointed to investigate the Pegasus Line – where Israeli spyware was allegedly used to spy on politicians, journalists, judges and government officials – has asked for more time to complete its investigation. Sources said the panel, headed by (retired) Justice Raveendran, has already submitted its interim report to the Supreme Court, which will likely consider it on February 23.

The Supreme Court appointed the committee in October last year amid huge political furor, saying the state ‘won’t get a free pass’ whenever national security is raised and the court would not remain a “silent spectator”.

So far, at least 13 people – including journalists N Ram, Siddharth Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta – have testified before the committee. Sources said the panel also received a dozen mobile phones for forensic examination, including those belonging to the defendant in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Pegasus row erupted last year when a global news consortium reported that the spyware was being used by several countries to target activists, journalists and many other members of civil society.

In India, the news portal “The Wire” claimed that more than 142 people were targeted.

The alleged list included Rahul Gandhi of Congress, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two incumbent Union ministers, a former election commissioner, two Supreme Court clerks, a former number of a former judge, a close aide of a former attorney general and 40 journalists. .

While spyware maker NSO said it only supplies its product to governments and their agencies, the Centre, under intense opposition pressure, said there was no unlawful interception.

In October, responding to a series of petitions, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a three-member panel of experts.

Quashing virtually all of the Centre’s arguments, the court said that privacy is not the only concern of journalists or social activists, but of every citizen. The oversight, said the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, “can have a chilling effect on freedom of expression”.

Last month, the row flared up again when the US daily New York Times reported that Pegasus spyware and a missile system were the ‘centerpieces’ of a roughly $2 billion deal between India and Israel. concluded in 2017, which involved weapons and intelligence systems.

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