29 phones were examined and malware was found in five, but there’s no conclusive proof of Pegasus spyware in them, a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana said today, adding that the committee it appointed to investigate the issue said the Indian government did not cooperate in its probe. “Centre has not cooperated,” it said.
The Supreme Court is scrutinising a report submitted by a technical committee it set up on the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to snoop on phones of politicians, activists and journalists.
The top court said the report is submitted in three parts – two reports of the technical committee and one report of the overseeing committee by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice RV Raveendran. The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said the panel has submitted its “lengthy” report in three parts and one part suggested amending the law to protect the right to privacy of citizens and ensure cyber security of the nation.
One part of the report will be made public on the Supreme Court’s website, it said. “We will be making the third part of the report by Justice Raveendran on recommendations public on our website,” the CJI said, adding that the committee has asked not to publish the full report in the public domain.
Some of the petitioners sought a copy of the first two parts of the report. The CJI said the court will examine the demand.
“We don’t want to make any more comments without going through the complete report,” Justice Ramana said.
“After tomorrow, I will also express my opinion”, CJI said in a lighter vein when an advocate said he wanted to express his views.
The matter was adjourned for four weeks. This Supreme Court set up the expert committee to probe whether Indian law enforcement authorities had procured and used Pegasus after a huge political storm was set off by global headlines that the spyware from the Israeli firm NSO Group was used to target many around the world.
The panel, which included three experts on cyber security, digital forensics, networks, and hardware, was asked to “inquire, investigate, and determine” whether Pegasus spyware was used for snooping on citizens and their probe was to be monitored by a former Supreme Court judge Raveendran.
The panel members were Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Prabaharan P, and Ashwin Anil Gumaste.
In India, the news portal “The Wire” claimed that more than 142 people were targeted. Forensic analysis of some of the cellphones by the Security Lab of Amnesty International had confirmed a security breach, reports said.
The alleged list included Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two serving Union Ministers, an ex-Election Commissioner, two registrars of the Supreme Court, an old number of a former judge, a close aide of a former Attorney General, and 40 journalists.
The government had given a statement in the parliament saying no illegal interception has been done but no discussion on the issue took place in either house. Opposition parties have repeatedly demanded a discussion on the issue.
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