Listen to this article:
New Delhi: Activist Arun Ferreira, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, told a special court here on Friday, July 29, that the electronic evidence (emails), relied on by the prosecution as evidence in the case, was obtained “without proper authorisation”.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), however, contended that the emails were not intercepted, but were downloaded during the investigation by following due procedure.
Ferreira told the special NIA court that he had filed an application two months ago seeking direction from the prosecution for producing an order from competent authority for carrying out such interception.
The activist is currently in judicial custody following his arrest in the case.
Ferreira, in his application, had claimed that the electronic (email) conversations between Rona Wilson and one of the wanted accused were intercepted by the probe agency (Pune Police) on multiple occasions in 2018.
The material derived from it was being presented as evidence by the prosecution, he stated.
“As per a provision of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA], such material shall not be received in evidence or otherwise disclosed in any trial, hearing or proceedings in court, unless the accused have been furnished with a copy of a competent authority,” the activist had said.
However, the prosecution (NIA), in its reply, contended that during the course of the investigation, electronic devices seized from Wilson were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for examination. The data of the electronic devices of Wilson received from the FSL Pune were analysed.
The probe agency said that investigating officer concerned conducted a further probe in the presence of two independent witnesses with the help of cyber experts and downloaded the communication of the email following due procedure.
“As no interception was carried out at any point of time, the question of obtaining an order from a competent authority does not arise,” it argued.
Earlier this year, in January, Ferreira, Wilson were among the other accused in the case who sent their representation to the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Committee alleging that their phones were infected by the vicious Pegasus malware.
The Wire had reported earlier that at least eight activists, lawyers and academics arrested for their supposed role in the Elgar Parishad case were on the leaked database as probable Pegasus targets. Besides the accused persons, their family members, lawyers, associated activists and, in some cases, minor children too appeared on the list.
In December 2021, a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, concluded that Wilson’s phone, an Apple make, was not just selected for surveillance by a client of Israel’s NSO Group but was also successfully compromised on many occasions.
The Elgar Parishad case, which is now being handled by the NIA, pertains to the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which according to the Pune police was funded by the Maoists. The inflammatory speeches made there led to violence at the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in Pune the next day, the police had alleged.
(With PTI inputs)