Pegasus Spyware Probe #7: Technical Committee Granted More Time To Submit Final Report

Pegasus Spyware Probe

On May 20th, 2022, a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli granted the Technical Committee more time to complete its investigation report on the  Pegasus spyware case. The Court, upon Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s insistence, rejected Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal’s request to make the Committee’s interim report public. 

Last year, a group of journalists, activists, and members of the Opposition alleged that their mobile phones were intercepted using Pegasus spyware. The developers of Pegasus claim that they only sell their programme to governments. The petitioners sought a judicial investigation to determine if the Union used Pegasus spyware to intercept their private communication. The contents of the interim report have not been shared with the petitioners. 

The Supreme Court last heard the matter between August 16th to September 13th, 2021. During the last hearing, the Bench reserved its Order, which was finally delivered on October 27th, 2021. The Bench constituted a Technical Committee to investigate the issue, overseen by former Supreme Court Justice R.V. Raveendran. This Committee was to determine whether Pegasus was used to spy on Indian citizens, who acquired the spyware, and whether it was done lawfully. It was also asked to provide recommendations on improving India’s cybersecurity, as well as measures that protect citizens’ right to privacy, especially in cases of illegal surveillance.

On May 20th, Ramana CJI detailed the highlights of the interim report. The Committee examined 29 allegedly infected phones, developing its own software for the investigation. It collected testimonies from journalists as well. He stated that while the Committee has completed the investigation into the alleged misuse of Pegasus, it is still contemplating its suggestions on proposed Amendments to strengthen privacy rights. He granted the Committee time to finalise its report, stating that the Bench would prefer a submission in four weeks. 

The case will be heard next in July 2022, after the Court’s summer vacation.