The Supreme Court on Monday said it will pass orders this week on the nature of inquiry into the Pegasus controversy after being disappointed by the Centre’s refusal to file a detailed affidavit despite taking time twice, only to come back and reiterate readiness to set up an independent technical committee to examine alleged use of the spyware for snooping.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta explained the Centre’s predicament in filing an affidavit and, consequently, putting in the public domain, details of software used by the government agencies to intercept communications between "enemies of India" and terror organisations with their sleeper cells.
This was the ground taken in its short affidavit filed by the Centre on August 17, the day the SC had issued notice to the Centre seeking a detailed reply. The SG had again sought time on September 7 to allow the Centre to decide whether or not to file such an affidavit.
When he kept harping on the efficacy of the government setting up a technical committee comprising of domain experts, who have no links of any kind with the government, to examine the issue, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said, "We thought the government will file some affidavit and depending on that we will decide how to go further. Now, they have made a statement. We will consider what interim order or some order we have to pass."
The CJI-led bench said, "After all it is your prerogative (whether to file a detailed affidavit or not). We thought that if an affidavit is filed, we can take a call and decide what type of inquiry we can order. Now, we have to take into account the whole issue and do something."
As the SG reiterated the government’s stand and said, "The government’s position on the issue is clear." CJI Ramana said, "Mr Mehta, beating around the bush is not the issue. " The SG countered it by saying, "Suppose the government says it never used Pegasus, are they (the dozen PIL petitioners) going to withdraw their petitions? The answer is no. Someone has to go into it. That’s why I am saying someone (technical committee set up by the government) has to go into it under SC supervision."
The SC bench reserved its decision on the nature of the interim order it would pass, but kept the window open for the government to key in an affidavit at the eleventh hour. "We will pass some orders. It will take us two or three days to prepare the interim order. If you have any rethinking, you can inform us," the bench told Mehta.