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New Delhi: The panel constituted by the Supreme Court to investigate the alleged misuse of the Pegasus spyware to spy on journalists, politicians and activists submitted its report to the court about a week ago, according to Hindustan Times.
The panel, headed by retired Supreme Court judge R.V. Raveendran, was formed after a consortium of media organisations – including The Wire – revealed that the spyware was used to target critics of the Narendra Modi government.
The contents of the report remain confidential. The final report was submitted to the court after multiple delays.
According to Hindustan Times, the Supreme Court is yet to set the next date of hearing for the case. It may be listed on August 12, the newspaper said. Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana, who was part of the bench that constituted the committee, is set to retire later this month, on August 26.
Constituting the committee in October 2021, CJI Ramana observed that the government cannot escape accountability by raising the spectre of national security. “There was only a vague and omnibus denial of allegations by the Union,” the court said, criticising the Union government’s refusal to file a detailed affidavit because of ‘national security’ concerns.
Apart from Justice Raveendran, the panel comprises Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, dean of the National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar, Prabaharan P., professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala, and Ashwin Anil Gumaste, an institute chair associate professor at IIT Bombay.
Several alleged and confirmed targets of Pegasus have deposed before the committee. Their devices were also forensically analysed.
Among the confirmed targets of Pegasus were political strategist Prashant Kishor, The Wire‘s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K. Venu. Among the potential targets were opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, Abhishek Banerjee and even cabinet ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel.
The Wire and its partners revealed the names of at least 174 individuals who were either confirmed or potential targets of Pegasus in India and other countries. Pegasus is a military-grade spyware manufactured by the Israeli company NSO. The company claims that the spyware is sold only to vetted governments and is used to target terrotist and organised crime networks. The investigation by the Pegasus Project showed widespread abuse of the spyware to target dissidents and critics of governments.