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Pegasus: SC Adjourns Hearing Till September 13 As Centre Seeks More Time For Affidavit

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that there was some difficulty in filing the affidavit as some officers could not be met, and therefore, requested for an adjournment of the matter.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned till September 13 the hearing of cases seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus snooping row after the Union government sought time, Live Law reported.

A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Bopanna was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a judicial investigation into the Pegasus spyware issue.

According to the report, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that there was some difficulty in filing the affidavit as some officers could not be met, and therefore, requested for an adjournment of the matter.

On August 17, the apex court had sought the Union government’s response into the reports of snooping of activists, journalists, politicians and constitutional authorities using the Pegasus spyware. Then, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had claimed that a public affidavit on the matter would compromise national security, as terrorists may be able to shield themselves from Pegasus.

Also read: A Test for Pegasus – And Indian Democracy

On August 16, the Union government had filed an affidavit before the apex court saying that it will constitute a committee of experts to look into the Pegasus spyware scandal. The government did not say who will be on the committee or the timeframe for its investigation. However, the top court had said the affidavit has not satisfied allegations on whether or not Pegasus spyware was used by the government.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing in the petition filed by journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar, said that there was no objection to the adjournment. Accordingly, the court decided to hear the petitions on September 13.

Starting July 18, The Wire and several other international publications published reports on a leaked database of thousands of telephone numbers that were believed to have been potentially spied on by multiple government clients using Israel’s spyware service.

At least 161 names were revealed who were either persons of interest or forensically identified as having been targeted by clients of the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. The names include politicians and journalists such as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor, IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, The Wire’s founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan and M.K. Venu, The Wire’s diplomatic editor Devirupa Mitra, among others.

Several politicians, journalists and media bodies have filed petitions for a court-monitored investigation into the Pegasus snooping row. They include Advocate M.L. Sharma, journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar, 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, Narendra Kumar Mishra and the Editors Guild of India.