The Supreme Court of India started its hearing on the Pegasus snooping case on Wednesday, instating a three-judge panel for the same. In ordering a review into Pegasus, the panel stated that its goal is to “uphold the constitutional ideals and rule of law” without becoming “consumed in (political) rhetoric.”
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SC Issues Significant Order
The right to privacy of citizens, freedom of the press, including the right of journalists to protect their sources, and the limits of national security as an alibi by the government to block disclosure of facts related to citizen’s rights are at the heart of the Supreme Court’s significant order on the Pegasus snoop allegations.
The Court further cited the 2011 landmark ruling on black money, Ram Jethmalani v/s Union of India. It said that the government “should not take an adversarial position when citizens’ fundamental rights are threatened”. This was in response to the government’s refusal to file a detailed response to the petitioners’ allegations.
Govt now Required to Present its Case before Apex Court
The Supreme Court also rejected Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta’s broad argument of national security. Mehta referred to national security concerns, declining to produce a detailed document. He also refused to address whether the Centre had bought the spyware at all. The apex court further pushed the needle on holding the government accountable. In fact, the panel has now made it a requirement for the government to present its case.
The Court has given the Justice Raveendran Committee six terms of reference. This ranges from confirming the use of Pegasus spyware on citizens, identifying those who were affected, to determining whether the government or any other party procured the spyware for use on citizens, and the laws that might have allowed such use. These are the same questions that the Central administration has refused to answer in front of the Court.
More importantly, the Court cited press freedom and journalists’ right to protect sources as significant reasons for launching the investigation.
“Such a chilling effect (claimed monitoring) on freedom of speech is an assault on the press’s crucial public-watchdog duty, which could jeopardize the press’s capacity to offer accurate and reliable information,” the court stated.
Read more news by the DU Express team here.