Monday, December 5, 2022

SC forms panel to probe Pegasus; upholds right to privacy

Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana

The Supreme Court has formed an independent panel of technical experts to probe into the Pegasus snooping charge, adding that the indiscriminate spying on individuals cannot be allowed on individuals.

The apex court asked the committee to examine the allegations thoroughly and place the report before court. It posted the hearing after eight weeks.

“The Committee has been formed to probe the falsity and to discover the truth in Pegasus row… Violation of a citizen’s Right to Privacy is a serious matter and it needs to be examined,” the apex court said in its ruling.

A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said that retired Supreme Court Justice RV Ravindran will head the inquiry and an IPS officer will assist him, along with officials from cyber security and forensics backgrounds. 

The bench noted that while it was initially displeased with some of the petitions filed before it, which had only been based on news reports, there were also petitions filed before it by “direct victims” of Pegasus hacking.

Stating that there is serious concern about a foreign agency’s involvement in surveilling Indians, The apex court said, “It is undeniable that surveillance and the knowledge that one is under the threat of being spied on can affect the way an individual decides to exercise his or her rights. Such a scenario might result in self-censorship.”

 “We live in the era of information and we must recognise that while technology is important, it’s important to safeguard the right to privacy. Privacy is not just for journalists and politicians but also about the rights of individuals. There are restrictions on the right to privacy but those restrictions have to stand constitutional scrutiny,” the judgment added.

Meanwhile, The court acknowledged that the Centre “may decline to provide information when constitutional considerations exist, such as those pertaining to the security of the State.”

“The Respondent-Union of India must necessarily plead and prove the facts which indicate that the information sought must be kept secret as their divulgence would affect national security concerns,” the court said in its verdict.

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