In a significant move, the Editors Guild of India(EGI) has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the reports of state surveillance of journalists, activists, and politicians using the Israeli spyware Pegasus.
“Freedom of the press relies on non-interference by the government and its agencies in reporting of journalists, including their ability to securely and confidentially speaking with sources, investigate abuse of power and corruption, expose governmental incompetence, and speak with those in opposition to the government”, EGI says in its plea.
The PIL also sought directions to be issued to the Central government to produce details of contracts entered into with foreign companies for deploying spyware for surveillance and the persons against whom such spyware was used.
A bench led by the Chief Justice of India will consider on August 5 seeking a judicial probe into the controversy. 5 journalists who are reported to be on the Pegasus snoop list have also filed independent writ petitions in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation into the issue. Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas and Advocate ML Sharma have also filed PILs with similar demands.
The Pegasus controversy erupted on July 18 after The Wire and several other international publications published reports about the mobile numbers which were potential targets of the spyware service given by NSO company to various governments, including India.
40 Indian journalists, political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishore, former ECI member Ashok Lavassa, etc are reported to be on the list of targets, as per The Wire.
According to a report of The Wire, the woman staffer who raised the sexual harassment allegations against the former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and some of her family members were listed as the potential targets of Pegasus snooping.