The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant yesterday (August 5) while hearing a petition on the alleged snooping row involving Israeli firm NSO and its Pegasus spyware came down heavily on the petitioners and gave them an earful. Citing that the alleged Pegasus scandal broke out two years ago and the petitioners were filing a plea now, the court observed:
“You all know that there is a prima facie material as well as the credibility of reports where we can order an enquiry etc. unfortunately what I read from writs, in may 2019 this came to light I don’t know there was no serious concern about this issue.”
The petitions were filed by the Editors Guild of India and journalists N Ram, Shashi Kumar, Advocate ML Sharma, CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas, five pegasus targets( Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shataksi), social activist Jagdeep Chhokkar and Narendra Kumar Mishra.
CJI also remarked that the petitions are based on newspaper reports and the petitioners could have put in more effort to collect verifiable materials, as most of them are knowledgeable and resourceful journalists and activists.
Pulling advocate ML Sharma for building his entire case on newspaper cuttings, the court scathingly remarked, “Mr. Sharma, except newspaper cutting, what is there in your petition. What purpose you have filed the petition? You want us to collect the material and argue your case. This is not the way of filing a PIL. We also read newspapers,”
In response, Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners replied that the extent of the Pegasus attack was only known now after the reports of Citizen Lab. And, individuals have no means to access the materials as Pegasus sells its services only to the Governments.
Not satisfied by the answer the court remarked, “They have not made efforts to file a criminal complaint. My question is if you know the phone is hacked then why wasn’t an FIR lodged. That is the only question.”
According to a live law report, Advocate Meenakshi Arora appearing for RS MP John Brittas said, “We haven’t slept for two yrs. IT Minister was asked a question in Nov’19 in the parliament & the minister said there was no unauthorized interception being done.” To which CJI asked if they knew their phone was hacked, they should have filed an FIR. “Was your phone tapped or not?” CJI asked. Advocate Arora replied, “I’m a RS MP. No, my phone wasn’t tapped.”
Arora: There has to be judicial oversight of interception.#CJI: We have a simple question. If you know your phone was hacked, you have the remedy of filing an FIR. Why didn't you do that? Was your phone tapped or not?
Arora: I'm a RS MP. No, my phone wasn't tapped.
— Utkarsh Anand (@utkarsh_aanand) August 5, 2021
Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones. As soon as the bogus report was out, Indian media and opposition launched a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi government accusing it of infringing upon their privacy rights. Curiously, this report was released a day before the Monsoon session of the parliament began where PM Modi was set to introduce his new cabinet ministers post the grand reshuffle.
Ever since then, the left-liberal establishment have tugged onto the alleged scandal as the last resort to resurrect the dead fortunes of an insipid opposition. Without any concrete facts and proof, merely working on guesswork, insinuations, and false hunches, the opposition is hurling everything in its arsenal, hoping something sticks.
By using conjecture to churn a report and later pinning the entire electorate strategy on it makes the opposition look ludicrous, weak and out of ideas in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The fact that PM Modi’s vote base doesn’t even care for such antics further speaks into the universe that how naïve the strategy is. Moreover, the Court’s observations further prove the opposition is out of its depth on this one.