The Supreme Court on Friday, December 16, ordered a stay on the inquiry into the Pegasus snooping case by the Justice Lokur Commission set up by the West Bengal government.
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The Supreme Court bench, led by CJI NV Ramana, said that it was not happy with the constitution of the commission when the top court had ordered an inquiry by an independent committee. The SC was hearing a petition by an NGO that had earlier challenged the inquiry commission set up by the West Bengal government.
In October, the Supreme Court formed an expert committee to probe the Pegasus snoopgate row. While hearing the case, the Supreme Court said indiscriminate spying on individuals cannot be allowed.
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The Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government had set up the two-member panel headed by former SC Justice MB Lokur to look into the allegations of illegal surveillance using Israeli Spyware Pegasus.
The SC has also issued a notice to the commission, seeking a response to the plea filed by the NGO, Global Village Foundation.
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CJI Ramana, while hearing the petition, told the Bengal government’s counsel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, “What’s this? Last time you stated on record that we were not doing anything. Now, you started the proceedings.”
To this, Singhvi replied: “I had said the state government does not control the commission. We had conveyed to the commission not to do anything till the judgment from SC comes out. The commission did not do anything till after the judgment was passed by this court.”
What is the Pegasus spyware controversy?
Several reports by an international media consortium alleged that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders, activists and one sitting judge in India could have been targeted for hacking through Israeli spyware Pegasus.
The Opposition has accused the central government of not being transparent on the issue and demanded clarification on if the spyware was used to snoop on Indians. The ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament has also been affected by the row, with the Opposition accusing the NDA government of running away from a discussion.