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Pegasus Case: SC to Decide Next Week Whether it Will Issue Notice to Centre

The court also asked petitioners not to debate the matter on social media while it is being discussed in court.

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New Delhi: Taking exception over parallel proceedings and debates on social media by some petitioners who have sought an independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping issue, the Supreme Court Tuesday said there must be some discipline and they must have some faith in the system.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, which said it would take a call on August 16 on whether to issue notice to the Centre on pleas seeking probe into the Pegasus row, said it is not against debate but when the matter is pending in the apex court it should be deliberated upon here.

The bench, also comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant, said it expects that petitioners who are interested in the matter would answer whatever queries the court would put to them by way of proper debate in the court and not outside .

“See, once you come to this court, we expect that debate is taking place here and we expect that they will answer the questions,” the bench told the counsel appearing for the petitioners, adding, “They must have some faith in the system.”

It observed that instead of having a parallel proceeding or parallel debate, whatever the petitioners want to say, they can file affidavit in the court and the bench would go through its each and every content.

The CJI told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing veteran journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar who have filed one of the petitions, that there must be some discipline. Sibal said, “Absolutely, I entirely agree with you. When the matter is in court, there should not be public statements of any nature. I entirely agree with you.”

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that he has received copies of the petitions, except the one possibly filed by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha.

“It is not a grievance, they can serve it. I may need some instructions,” Mehta told the bench, adding, “I am in the process of going through the matter. I need instructions from the government. Subject to your lordships convenience, if I can get time till Friday. I need two working days to get instructions.”

The CJI said the matter would be taken up for hearing on August 16 as he has some personal inconvenience on Friday.

Senior advocate C.U. Singh, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that notice be issued on the petitions.

“Monday, I will take a call. Till Monday, wait,” the bench said.

Advocate Manish Tewari, appearing for Yashwant Sinha, said they have served the copy of their petition to the Centre.

During the hearing, the bench referred to the adjudication process and said the courts put question to both the parties.

“We asked some questions to all of you. We expect some materials, some information or something. You know the adjudication process how the courts will ask questions. Sometimes, it may be inconvenient for you, sometimes it may be encouraging to you. Whatever it is, both sides have to face this music,” the bench said.

Sibal said on the last date of hearing, he had appeared for Ram and there was reference about proceedings related to Pegasus in California court. He said Ram was trolled on the social media.

“See this is the problem when one line is taken out of context,” the bench observed, adding that it had put some questions and that was blown out of proportion.

The top court said it is not correct and the debate should not cross the limit for anybody.

“See, we are following a procedure and the system. They must have faith in the system,” the bench said.

Sibal said the issue involved in the matter is serious and the government or others should be given the opportunity to explain the position.

The bench said it has always given opportunity to the petitioners as well as to the government.

See, any of the petitioners or those interested in the matter who are saying something in newspapers or media or whatever it is, we expect that they will answer whatever queries, whatever questions, whatever things when we put it to you by way of proper debate in the court, not outside, it observed.

Meanwhile, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) and National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information, has written a letter to the CJI seeking live webcast of the hearing in the Pegasus matter.

The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas, including the one filed by the Editors Guild of India, seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter.

They are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus.

An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on the list of potential targets for surveillance using Pegasus spyware.

During the hearing in the matter on August 5, the top court had said that allegations of Pegasus related snooping are “serious in nature” if reports on them are correct.

It had also asked the petitioners whether they had made any efforts to file criminal complaint on this.The apex court, which had asked the petitioners to serve the copies of the pleas to the Centre, had also questioned why the matter has suddenly cropped up now when it had come to light way back in 2019.

Editors Guild of India has sought in its plea that a special investigation team be set up to conduct probe into reported surveillance of journalists and others.

(With PTI inputs)