In fresh trouble for the government, CPM MP from Kerala John Brittas has moved Supreme Court and sought a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus spyware snooping issue. The petition came following reports of about 300 phone numbers of important Indian personalities including politicians, journalists, human rights activists, bureaucrats and constitutional functionaries surfacing on a list of alleged surveillance targets by Israeli spyware.
Brittas' plea came following a petition filed by Supreme Court advocate ML Sharma who had also filed for a petition for an SIT probe in the case.
Brittas, who has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, said that recent allegations of snooping has caused concern among a large section of people in India and that snooping would have a chilling effect on free speech and expression.
He has sought a court-monitored investigation into allegations of snooping using Pegasus spyware.
In a statement on Sunday, Brittas, who is a CPI-M member, said that despite the very serious nature, the central government has not cared to investigate into the allegations involved in the issue but "made only a hopeful hope that the time tested processes in our country are well-established to ensure that unauthorised surveillance does not occur".
"Therefore, the queries were raised in the Indian Parliament with respect to this
leakage. But the government has neither denied nor admitted the snooping by the spyware," he said.
Amid a row over the Pegasus spyware issue, the government had said that illegal surveillance was not possible with checks and balances in the country's laws and alleged that attempts were being made to malign the Indian democracy.
On July 19, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the Lok Sabha that media reports on alleged snooping published a day before the start of the Monsoon Session of Parliament "cannot be a coincidence" and stressed that there is "no substance" behind the sensationalism.
However, the minister did not specify whether the Indian government was using Pegasus spyware.
Brittas, on Sunday, also claimed that allegations lead to two inferences, either snooping was done by the government or by a foreign agency.
If it was done by the government, then it was done in an unauthorised manner. If snooping was carried out by some foreign agency, then that is an act of external aggression and needs to be dealt in a serious manner, Brittas pointed out.
The NSO, the company which owns the technology, has also "clearly rubbished the claims in the report", the minister had said.
The NSO had said that the list of countries shown using Pegasus in the report was incorrect and many countries mentioned were not even the clients of the company, as per the minister's statement to the Lok Sabha on July 19.
(With inputs from PTI)