Pegasus Spyware probe #4: West Bengal Inquiry Commission Pauses Operations

Pegasus Spyware Probe

August 25th 2021

A bench comprising CJI RamanaJ Surya Kant and J Aniruddha Bose heard a petition seeking a stay on the inquiry commission set up by the Government of West Bengal to investigate the interception of mobile phone data using Pegasus spyware. The petitioner is  Global Village Foundation Public Trust, a research organisation.

The Government of West Bengal (WB) issued a notification setting up an inquiry commission on August 16, 2021. The commission is headed by Retd. Supreme Court judge, J Madan Lokur. The WB Government’s notification states that interception of mobile phones belonging to politicians, judges and journalists may have caused State secrets to be breached.

West Bengal Inquiry Commission Petition To Be Heard With Other Pending Pegasus Petitions

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the present petition was closely connected to the other petitions pending before the Court in relation to Pegasus. He submitted that all petitions should be heard together. The respondents agreed with this submission.

The Court ordered that the petitions be heard together.

West Bengal Govt. Assures SC That Commission Will Pause Operations Until Court Hears All Pegasus Petitions

Mr. Salve argued further that the Court’s decision in the other petitions would have an impact on the proceedings of the West Bengal commission. Accordingly, he sought a stay on the proceedings of the commission until the other petitions were dealt with.

Senior Advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, appearing for the respondents, objected to this argument. He stated that the petitioner was an NGO with clear political affiliations- they wanted a statement from the Court ordering a stay so that it may ‘make a splash’.

CJI Ramana stated that the pending petitions were indeed closely connected to the West Bengal commission. If the commission continued to pass orders and issue notice, the Court would be forced to pass a stay order.

Mr. Singhvi assured the Court that the West Bengal Government would convey to the inquiry commission that it should not take action until the Court has adequately heard the Pegasus petitions. Mr. Salve stated that the petitioners were satisfied with Mr. Singhvi’s assurance.

Accordingly, no stay order was passed.