Expert Committee submits report before Supreme Court in Pegasus Spyware case; Matter to be heard after 4 weeks

Supreme Court: After the Technical Committee and the Overseeing Judge submitted their reports in the Pegasus Spyware case, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ has listed the matter after four weeks for further hearing.

The Court had, on 27.10.2021, in Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 985 appointed an Expert Committee to look into the truth or falsity of the allegations in the Pegasus Spyware case, “taking into account the public importance and the alleged scope and nature of the large-scale violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country.”

The what, the why, the who and the how: All you need to know about SC’s independent probe order in Pegasus case

The Pegasus suite of spywares, being produced by an Israeli Technology firm, viz., the NSO Group, can allegedly be used to compromise the digital devices of an individual through zero click vulnerabilities, i.e., without requiring any action on the part of the target of the software. Once the software infiltrates   an individual’s device, it allegedly has the capacity to access the entire stored data on the device, and has real time access to emails, texts, phone calls, as well as the camera and sound recording capabilities of the device. Once the device is infiltrated using Pegasus, the entire control over the device is allegedly handed over to the Pegasus user who can then remotely control all the functionalities of the device and switch different features on or off.

The NSO Group purportedly sells this extremely powerful software only to certain undisclosed Governments and the end user of its products are “exclusively   government intelligence and law enforcement agencies” as per its own website. Reports indicate that individuals from nearly 45 countries are suspected to have been affected.

On 18th  July 2021, a consortium of nearly journalistic organizations from around the world, including   one Indian organization, released the results of a long investigative effort indicating the alleged use of the Pegasus software on several private individuals. This investigative effort was based on a list of some   50,000 leaked numbers which were allegedly under surveillance by clients of the NSO Group through the Pegasus software. Initially, it was discovered that nearly 300 of these numbers belonged to Indians, many of whom are senior journalists, doctors, political persons, and even some Court staff. At the time of filing of the Writ Petitions, nearly 10 Indians’ devices were allegedly forensically   analyzed   to confirm the presence of the Pegasus software.

While the Supreme Court was initially reluctant in interfering in the matter due to lack of material placed before it, it eventually decided to step in after the subsequently filed petitions, as well as additional documents filed by others, brought on record certain materials that could not be brushed aside, such as the reports of reputed organizations like Citizen Lab and affidavits of experts.

Additionally, the sheer volume of cross-referenced and crossverified reports from various reputable news organizations across the world along with the reactions of foreign governments and legal institutions also moved us to consider that this is a case where the jurisdiction of the Court may be exercised.

Pegasus| ‘National security cannot be the bugbear that the judiciary shies away from’. Here’s why the initially reluctant Supreme Court finally decided to interfere

[Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1085, order dated 25.08.2022]

For Petitioner(s): Mr. Kapil Sibal, Sr. Adv. Mr. C.U. Singh, Sr. Adv. Mr. Shadan Farasat, AOR Mr. Nizam Pasha, Adv. Ms. Vidusshi, Adv. Mr. Zubin, Adv. Mr. Shourya Dasgupta, Adv. Mr. Bharat Gupta, Adv. Ms. Tanvi Tuhina, Adv. Ms. Hrishika Jain, Adv. Mr. Dhruv Bhatnagar, Adv. Mr. Aman Naqvi, Adv. Mr. Arvind P. Datar, Sr. Adv. Mr. Prateek K Chadha, AOR Mr. Tanmay Singh, Adv. Ms. Anandita Mishra, Adv. Mr. Madhav Khurana, Adv. Ms. Natasha Maheshwari, Adv. Mr. Rahul Unnikrishnan, Adv. Ms. Radhika Dhanotia, Adv. Ms. Ayushi Rajput, Adv. Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, Sr. Adv. Mr. Prateek K Chadha, AOR Ms. Vrinda Bhandari, Adv. Mr. Eklavya Dwivedi, Adv. Ms. Ayushi Rajput, Adv. Ms. Monika Dwivedi, Adv. Mr. Krishnesh Bapat, Adv. Ms. Radhika Dhanotia, Adv. Mr. Dinesh Dwivedi, Sr. Adv. Mr. Prateek Dwivedi, Adv. Mr. Nishant Singh, Adv. Mr. Prateek K Chadha, AOR Ms. Ayushi Rajput, Adv. Ms. Radhika Dhanotia, Adv. Ms. Vrinda Bhandari, Adv. Mr. Eklavya Dwivedi, Adv. Ms. Monika Dwivedi, Adv. Mr. Krishnesh Bapat, Adv. Mr. Tanmay Singh, Adv. Ms. Anandita Mishra, Adv. Mr. Madhav Khurana, Adv. Ms. Natasha Maheshwari, Adv. Mr. Rahul Unnikrishnan, Adv. Mr. Narendra Mishra, Adv. Mr. V.M. Eashwar, Adv. Mr. Abhimanyu Tewari, AOR Mr. Lzafeer Ahmad B. F., AOR Mr. Shyam Divan, Sr. Adv. Mr. Rahul Narayan, AOR Ms. Samiksha Godiyal, Adv. Ms. Ria Singh Sawney, Adv. Ms. Udayadita Banerjee, Adv. Mr. Govind Manoharan, Adv. Ms. Sugandha Yadav, Adv. Petitioner-in-person Ms. Resmitha R. Chandran, AOR Mr. Biju Joseph, Adv. Mr. Hardik Vashisht, Adv. Mr. Pramod P., Adv. Mr. Mishra Saurabh, AOR Mr. Colin Gonsalves, Sr.Adv. Mr. Sadiq Noor, Adv. Mr. Satya Mitra, AOR

For Respondent(s) Mr. Tushar Mehta, LD SG Mr. K.M. Nataraj, LD ASG Mr. Rajat Nair, Adv. Ms. Kanu Agrawal, Adv. Mr. Ankur Talwar, Adv. Ms. Deepabali Datta, Adv. Mr. Arvind Kumar Sharma, AOR Mr. M.K. Maroria, AOR Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, ASG Ms. Shagun Thakur, Adv. Ms. Poornima Singh, Adv. Mr. Manvendra Sing, Adv. Ms. Manisha Chava, Adv. Mr. Gurmeet Singh Makker, AOR Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sr.Adv. Mr. Suhaan Mukerji, Adv. Mr. Amit Bhandari, Adv. Mr. Vishal Prasad, Adv. Mr. Abhishek Manchanda, Adv. Mr. Sayandeep Pahari, Adv. Mr. Tanmay Sinha, Adv. For M/S. Plr Chambers And Co., AOR Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, Adv. Ms. Preetika Dwivedi, AOR Mr. Abhishek Mohanty, Adv. Mr. Milind Kumar, AOR Mr. Nishe Rajen Shonker, AOR Ms. Anu K.Joy, Adv. Mr. Alim Anvar, Adv. Mr. Rajiv Shankar Dvivedi, AOR Mr. Barun Sinha, Adv. Mr. Sushant Kumar Sarkar, Adv. Mr. Rishabh Jain, Adv. Ms. Arti Dwivedi, Adv. Mr. Ajay Pal, AOR Mr. Avijit Mani Tripathi, Adv. Mr. T.K. Nayak, Adv. Mr. Marbiang Khongwir, Adv.

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