NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a pre-admission notice to the Central government on petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus snooping row.A three-judge bench headed by CJI NV Ramana issued a notice after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta expressed inability to file a detailed affidavit revealing whether the government used the Peagsus software or not. So far, the bench had been hearing the matter without issuing any notice.
Mehta argued against making this information public, saying it was not in public interest, as national security aspects are involved and he assured that the government is ready to make a disclosure before a committee of technical experts, which it proposes to set up. This committee will submit its report to the court.
The judges told Mehta they do not want to compel him to divulge information that could potentially harm national security. “We would never ask you to make any such disclosure, irrespective of whether such a prayer is made or not. The question is that are individuals, civilians, person of eminence who suspect and allege snooping or hacking. In case of civilians also, rules permit (interception), but only subject to the permission of the competent authority,” said Justice Surya Kant.
“We will issue a simple notice and let the competent authority under rules take a decision to what extent information is to be disclosed and we will see what is to be done,” the judge said. The bench will hear the matter after 10 days.
CJI Ramana said the judges will deliberate on how to proceed. “We will consider what can be done. If a committee of experts needs to be made, or some other committee, we will do so,” the court told Mehta, who requested to let the government form the panel. “Even though rules permit an interception, that can be done only by the permission of the competent authority. What is the problem if that authority filed an affidavit before us?” the bench said.
Solicitor General raises security concern
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that if things are divulged at public forum, terrorist organisations will take advantage of a public disclosure on which software is used for interceptions or surveillance to change their communication settings.