NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court-appointed technical committee that is investigating the alleged use of Pegasus spyware has sought comments from the public on 11 queries by March 31.
The top court had appointed the committee in October 2021 under the oversight of retired Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran.
The questionnaire includes queries such as whether the existing boundaries of state surveillance of personal and private communications of citizens for national security, defence of India, maintenance of public order, and prevention and investigations of offences are well defined and understood.
It also asks if the procedures currently defined under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the IT Act, 2000 (including executive oversight measures) to prevent the excessive routine use, misuse or abuse of state surveillance are sufficient?
One of the questions is if there should be special safeguards for specific categories of persons. If so, what categories of persons should these cover and what form should these take?
The form also seeks comments on the contexts and the extent to which sovereign immunity and access should be afforded for acts of hacking digital devices and networks, technology backdoors, decryption of private records and legal mandates to share information under intermediary rules and data protection laws.
The questionnaire also seeks to know whether the state should be obliged to record or disclose surveillance technology that it has access to or that it has used for the purposes of national security. It further asks who this information should be disclosed to and in what form. Also, whether this information should be available under the purview of Right to Information.
The form also seeks comments from the public on ways to strengthen the cyber security of the nation, and on what laws and safeguards should be put in place by the state to protect its citizens from targeted surveillance by non-state/private entities.
There are also questions on the possible grievance redressal mechanism for a person whose data was subjected to surveillance by the state but where no crime or security threat was established from the data collection and processing exercise.
The expert committee was set up by the apex court to enquire, investigate and determine certain matters relating to the complaint of unauthorised use of Pegasus spyware against Indian citizens, in the Manohar Lal Sharma case.
The technical committee includes Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Professor (Cyber Security and Digital Forensics) and Dean, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, Prabaharan P, Professor (School of Engineering), Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Amritapuri, Kerala, Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor (Computer Science and Engineering), Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Maharashtra.
As part of the Terms of Reference, the Technical Committee has been called upon to make recommendations regarding enactment or amendment to existing law and procedures surrounding surveillance and for securing the improved right to privacy, enhancing and improving the cyber security of the nation and its assets, and ensuring prevention of invasion of citizens’ right to privacy, otherwise than in accordance with the law, by State and/or non-State entities.