Pegasus row | Don’t want to file detailed affidavit, Centre tells SC

Centre tells SC it has nothing to hide and that is why it has on its own said it will constitute panel of domain experts.

The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that it does not wish to file a detailed affidavit on a batch of petitions seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping row.

The Centre told a Bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana that it has “nothing to hide” and that’s why the government has on its own said it will constitute a committee of domain experts to look into these allegations.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, that whether a particular software is used or not by the government is not a matter for public discussion and making this information a part of an affidavit will not be in national interest.

Mr. Mehta said the report of the committee of domain experts will be placed before the apex court.

The top court told Mr. Mehta that it had already made clear that it did not want the government to disclose anything which compromises national security.

The hearing in the matter is going on.

A three-judge Bench had on September 7 granted more time to the Centre to decide on filing a further response on the petitions after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that due to some difficulties, he could not meet the officials concerned to take a decision on the filing of a second affidavit.

The Centre had earlier filed a limited affidavit in the apex court saying the pleas seeking an independent probe into the Pegasus snooping allegations are based on “conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material”.

On August 17, the top court had issued notice to the Centre on the pleas, making it clear that it did not want the government to disclose anything which compromised national security.

In its short affidavit filed in the court earlier, the Centre had said the position on the issue had already been clarified in Parliament by Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

With a view of dispelling any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and examining the issues raised, the government will constitute a committee of experts, it had said.

The top court, while issuing notice on the pleas, had said that it did not want the government to disclose anything related to national security, and had asked the Centre what the “problem” was if the competent authority filed an affidavit before it on the issue.

The pleas are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using the 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 the Pegasus spyware.

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