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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, May 20, granted additional time of four weeks, until June 20, to the three-member expert committee constituted to look into the Pegasus row, according to NDTV.
A division bench of Chief Justice N. V. Ramana and Justice Hima Kohli has said that 29 infected mobile phones are being examined for the spyware by the technical committee and the process should conclude in four weeks. The committee, the bench said, has also recorded statements of persons including some journalists.
Standard operating procedure for testing the ‘infected devices’ will be finalised too, it said, adding the probe by the technical committee may conclude by the May end and then the supervisory judge would be making a report for the perusal of the bench.
According to Bar and Bench, the court said, “Twenty-nine mobile devices are being examined. They have invited objections and the mobile devices are still being examined. The technical committee has seized 29 devices and examined some. Once the technical committee submits a report to the supervisory judge, the judge will also add his comments. So we deem it fit to extend the time. We direct the technical committee to expedite examination of devices.”
The committee is headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice R.V. Raveendran, and has Alok Joshi, IPS officer, and Dr. Sundeep Oberoi, chairman, subcommittee in (International Organisation of Standardisation/International Electro-Technical Commission/Joint Technical Committee) as its members.
“Preferably, the process by the technical committee should be over in four weeks and the supervisory judge should be informed. The supervisory judge shall submit his report thereafter. List sometime in July,” the CJI said.
The apex court, in October last year, had ordered a probe into the alleged use of the spyware.
An international media consortium – of which The Wire was part – had reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers used by journalists, activists, opposition leaders, lawyers, among others were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using the Pegasus spyware.
An analysis carried out by Amnesty International also concluded that some of the said mobile numbers were found to have traces of a successful Pegasus infection, while some showed attempted infection.
Last year, the issue also rocked India, with the opposition demanding the government to come clean on the matter given that the Israeli firm which sells Pegasus spyware claims that it is only sold to “vetted governments” and not to private entities.
The apex court received a number of petitions seeking an impartial investigation into the matter. Some of the petitioners include advocate M.L. Sharma; Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas; director of Hindu Group of publications N. Ram; founder of Asianet Sashi Kumar, Editors Guild of India; and journalists Rupesh Kumar Singh, Ipsa Shatakshi, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abidi and Prem Shankar Jha.
The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organisations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read all our coverage here.
(With PTI inputs)