The government has cited national security reasons to say it will not file a detailed affidavit in response to multiple petitions seeking a formal inquiry into the Pegasus spyware scandal. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court the government had decided “statements on this issue cannot be made through affidavits… (and) filing affidavits and then making it (part of) public discourse is not possible”.
“We cannot let terrorists know what softwares are being used…” he declared.
An annoyed Supreme Court reminded Mr Mehta that while it understood and appreciated the ‘national security’ argument, the government was only asked to respond to claims of the hacking of individuals’ phones – including opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, major industrialists like Anil Ambani and journalists and activists critical of current administration.
“Last time also national security (concerns) arose and we clarified that nobody… is going to intervene in a way that affects national security. We had asked you that there are claims of individual phones being hacked… so file your affidavit on that… on whether it was authorised,” Justice Surya Kant said.
“We are only concerned with issues of phones of individuals (being) hacked. Which agency has powers and whether it authorised or not… There are individuals saying their right to privacy has been violated,” he stressed.
“If individuals are saying their privacy was violated… it is serious and we are ready to go into it. We will form a committee of experts,” Mr Mehta countered.
The court seemed unimpressed and pointed out “appointing a committee is not an issue”.
“… purpose of the affidavit was supposed to be that we know where you stand. As per your own IT Minister’s statement in Parliament – that without subjecting the phone to technical analysis – it is hard to assess whether phone was hacked or not,” the court said.
“We have given opportunities (the government has twice before sought time to file this affidavit)… But they (the government) don’t want to file,” the court observed.