New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said it intends to set up a technical expert committee to probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said that it wanted to pass the order this week in the case but the matter is taking time as some experts they had in mind to be members of the committee expressed personal difficulties to be part of the same.
The CJI said that the Court will finalise the members of the committee soon and will pass orders next week.
They told this orally to senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh, who is one of the counsels in the Pegasus case.
The apex court on September 13 had said it will pass an interim order in two-three days on pleas seeking an independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping row.
Several petitions are pending before the top court seeking a court-monitored probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court that it was willing to set up a committee of independent experts to examine all aspects of the alleged Pegasus snooping row. It had maintained that what software was used for an interception in the interest of national security can't be open for public debate.
The Centre had offered to set up a Committee comprising independent experts to inquire whether Pegasus was used to snoop on phones. It had said the matter can be inquired into by a committee of independent domain experts and the report can be filed before the top court.
The government had also contended that it is willing to place the details of surveillance before the expert committee proposed to be constituted by it to examine the issues and the committee can give a report to the Supreme Court.
The petitioners' lawyers had repeatedly told the Bench that the Central government has evaded answering the question if it or any of its agencies have ever used the Pegasus spyware and urged the Court to direct the government to come clean on this issue.
There are many pleas filed before the top court by senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of Communist Marxist Party of India (Marxist) and advocate ML Sharma, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya.
Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, SNM Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shatakshi, who are reported to be on the potential list of snoop targets of Pegasus spyware, had also approached the top court along with The Editors Guild of India (EGI) among others.
The pleas sought inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the top court to investigate the alleged snooping.
The plea said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by the Supreme Court in the KS Puttaswamy case (2017).