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Law

Pegasus: SC Stays Proceedings of West Bengal-Appointed Judicial Inquiry Commission

The West Bengal government's counsel had earlier told the court that the inquiry would not be proceeding.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a judicial inquiry into the Pegasus spyware allegations that had been commissioned by the West Bengal state government. The inquiry commission set up by the state is headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana expressed unhappiness with the parallel inquiry when an independent probe panel had been constituted by the apex court, LiveLaw reported. The bench also comprised Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.

An NGO named ‘Global Village Foundation Charitable Trust’ had challenged the West Bengal proceedings through senior advocate Harish Salve.

CJI Ramana asked senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal, about what had happened to his previous oral submission that the state government won’t proceed further. “Mr Singhvi, what is this? Last time you gave the undertaking. We wanted to record you said don’t record. Again you started the inquiry?”

Singhvi said that the state government does not control the commission. “I said I don’t control the Commission and I’ll convey the constraint. I did. The commission started. Please call their counsel and pass orders. As a State, I can’t restrain the Commission,” he responded.

The CJI said he “understood the state’s predicament”. “Issue notice to all parties. We stay proceedings,” he added.

On October 27, the Supreme Court had set up an independent expert committee to investigate the use of Pegasus spyware against journalists, opposition politicians and others, overruling pleas by the government that national security concerns required a veil be placed on the question of surveillance.

The ruling followed revelations made this July by The Wire and its global media partners in the Pegasus Project reports about how the smart phones of over a dozen people were found infected or targeted by spyware. These individuals were part of a larger group of persons whose numbers figured in a leaked database of probable Pegasus targets around the world.