A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on Indian citizens, Opposition leaders, activists, journalists and even on its own ministers.
The PIL filed by one advocate ML Sharma, who has made the Prime Minister’s Office and CBI parties to the case, the Pegasus software is being used by the Prime Minister and his ministers to spy on Indian citizens for their vested political interest.
“Whether the Constitution allows the Prime Minister and his Minister to snoop on citizens of India for their vested political interest,” he asked, while urging the SC to examine if snooping in this case does not attract offences under the Official Secrets Act, Information Technology Act besides violating Article 21 (fundamental rights).
The PIL claimed that around 50,000 phone numbers were believed to be targeted by clients of the company, NSO Group, since 2016, that was leaked to major news outlets.
It said the right to privacy was not about the wish to hide, as is often asserted. “It is about having a space of one’s own where our thoughts and our being are not the instrument of someone else’s purposes. It is an essential component of dignity,” Sharma stated in his petition.
“Pegasus is not just a surveillance tool. It is a cyber-weapon being unleashed on the Indian polity. Even if authorised, the use of Pegasus poses a national security risk,” he submitted.
“If Pegasus is present in India, we stand out because we are part of a club of mostly authoritarian and semi-authoritarian states using this technology. It does not speak well of us as a democracy. It also does not speak well of us as a capable State. If our capabilities are so low that private foreign contractors are rampant, it is probably also an indication that we have no means of protecting ourselves,” the petition said.