Maintain restraint on Pegasus inquiry panel: SC to WB

SC asks WB govt to maintain restraint on Pegasus Inquiry Commission

WB govt assures nothing will happen till court hears plea for inquiry

Credit: iStockPhoto

The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the West Bengal government, which formed Justice M B Lokur-headed Commission of Inquiry to probe Pegasus snooping case, to observe some restraint as the matter with pan-India effect was being examined by it.

The West Bengal government, for its part, assured the top court that the two-member Inquiry Commission would not go ahead with the probe till the court heard a clutch of pleas on the issue.

A bench presided over by Chief Justice N V Ramana tagged the PIL, filed by Global Village Foundation Public Charitable Trust, challenging the formation of the Commission of Inquiry by the West Bengal government, with other petitions pending before the top court on the controversy.

The court said all the matters would be taken up together next week.

"Please maintain restraint as we are already hearing the Pegasus matter", the bench told senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for the West Bengal government.

"At present, this issue is connected to other issues, in all fairness we expect you can wait. We will hear it with the matter sometime next week. Those matters (pleas seeking inquiry on alleged use of Pegasus spyware by the government) are likely to have pan India impact," the bench also comprising Justice Surya Kant told Singhvi.

The bench further said, "next week we will pass a comprehensive order, in the meantime, if you start an enquiry, we will have to pass an order."

Singhvi said he will convey the court's views to the government and the Commission and in one week or two weeks, nothing will happen.

"Nothing will happen in the meantime. Please don't make an observation, that is all," Singhvi said.

Senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for petitioner NGO Global Village Foundation Public Charitable Trust submitted that there can't be two parallel inquiries.

In its response to the top court's notice issued on August 18, Mamata Banerjee justified the setting up of a two-member Commission of Inquiry as the Union government “non-committal and evasive”.

The West Bengal said that the Commission, constituted by it, would “put into place effective countermeasures against any rogue foreign spyware”.

The West Bengal government also questioned the motive behind the instant plea, claiming that the trustee and chairman of the NGO had close links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliate, Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

"The Pegasus controversy is indeed a matter of public importance affecting public order and therefore, the state government had the jurisdiction to constitute the Commission to restore public confidence in the people of West Bengal and to ensure that no unauthorised interception through a rogue foreign spyware can occur in the state," the affidavit filed by the WB government said.

Earlier on August 18, the top court had refused to stay the proceedings of the Inquiry Commission, also comprising former Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, Justice (retired) Jyotirmay Bhattacharya.

The NGO, in its plea, sought a direction to disband the two-member Commission.

The top court was already seized of pleas seeking court-monitored probe into the reports of government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, court staffs, and journalists. The Centre has offered to constitute a Committee of Experts to examine all the issues relating to the alleged Pegasus snooping issue.

On August 17, the court had told the Centre that it would not like to compromise with the security of the nation but wanted the competent authority to apprise it on charges related to illegal hacking of phones through Israeli's Pegasus spyware.

"We will discuss what needs to be done, if Committee of Experts needs to be made, or some other Committee," the bench had said.

Check out DH's latest videos:

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox