Compelled to determine truth: SC sets up expert panel to probe Pegasus allegations

Compelled to determine truth: SC sets up expert panel to probe Pegasus allegations
Representational ImageFile/ GK

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it was compelled to take up the cause to determine the truth, as it appointed an independent expert technical committee supervised by a retired top court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, to probe the Pegasus snooping allegations.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said the court’s effort is to uphold the rule of law, without entering the “political thicket”, and added the alleged use of Pegasus on the citizens of the country, was of “grave concern”.

The bench also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said while technology is a useful tool for improving the lives of the people, at the same time, it can also be used to breach that sacred private space of an individual.

“Privacy is not the singular concern of journalists or social activists. Every citizen of India ought to be protected against violations of privacy”, emphasized the bench, adding this right is directly infringed when there is surveillance on an individual, either by state or any external agency.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, had refused to divulge details whether Pegasus was used or not, stating the information may affect the national security concerns of the country.

The bench said it is a settled position of law that in matters pertaining to national security, the scope of judicial review is limited. “However, this does not mean that the State gets a free pass every time the spectre of “national security” is raised.

National security cannot be the bugbear that the judiciary shies away from, by virtue of its mere mentioning”, said the bench.

The top court said invocation of national security by the state does not render it a mute spectator when foreign governments have seriously taken the purported spyware attack, and some governments have initiated proceedings internally to determine the truth.

“Certain grave allegations of infringement of the rights of the citizens of the country have been raised, assuming great significance. In this light, this court is compelled to take up the cause to determine the truth and get to the bottom of the allegations made herein”, said the bench.

Stating that snooping impacted the right to privacy and freedom of speech, the top court cited several compelling circumstances for it to constitute the committee.

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