The government denied allegations levelled against it in the Pegasus controversy and said it is open to the Supreme Court appointing a technical committee, comprising neutral and independent experts, to inquire into all aspects of the case - whether the spyware was purchased by the Centre, and, if so, which of its agencies used it and for what purpose.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta made this offer on behalf of the Union government to a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose shortly after senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for some of the 10 PIL petitioners, dismissed the Centre's two-page affidavit denying illegal snooping as an eyewash.
Technical panel has limitations: SC
The SC said a technical panel has certain limitations as it can go into the issue - whether the phones were infiltrated by Pegasus but no further. “How will a technical committee examine whether permissions by authorities were given for interception of telephones, whether procedures established by law were adhered to or not and who purchased the software? Experts can go into the angle of whether a particular software was used or not in the phones. Other issues about permissions and sanctions, procurement, which agencies did this, private or state, has to be examined by somebody. Who will examine that,” it asked.
Mehta responded: “The committee can be authorised by the Supreme Court to go into all issues. The government has nothing to hide. The committee can comprise neutral and independent experts and authorised by the court to go into all issues. The government has no difficulty in agreeing to this. The Supreme Court using its powers under Article 32 of the Constitution can decide whatever will be the terms of reference for the committee. The committee then will be carrying the mandate from the Supreme Court to go into all issues.” Earlier in the day, the Centre filed an affidavit by an additional secretary, in the ministry of electronics and information technology, who “unequivocally denied” the allegations made in the PILs and said, “A bare perusal of the captioned petition and other connected petitions makes it clear that the same are based on conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material. It is submitted that the same cannot be the basis for invoking the writ jurisdiction of the SC.” It added, “With a view to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised, the Union government will constitute a Committee of Experts in the field which will go into all aspects of the issue.”