Modi govt’s refusal to work with SC’s Pegasus probe panel reaffirms its culpability in matter

The decision to keep the report in a sealed envelope after an announcement that some parts of it would be uploaded to the SC’s website added to the mystery enveloping the whole affair

Representative (DW Photo)
Representative (DW Photo)

K Raveendran

The sudden twist in the Supreme Court’s stand on the confidentiality of the report of the expert committee that probed the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to snoop on politicians and people in public life has added more mystery to the imbroglio.

A three-judge bench led by the outgoing CJI NV Ramana had announced that it will make the report public and upload it on the Supreme Court website. But an order issued by the court later that evening disclosed that the sealed covers were opened and some parts were read out, following which the contents were re-sealed and kept in the custody of the court’s secretary general.

It will be made available to the court as and when required, the court said.

The case will now come up for consideration after four weeks.

Although what the report says about the role of the government remains a matter of conjecture for the moment, the court has already made a startling disclosure that the Centre refused to cooperate with the probe and that the spyware was detected in at least five of the 29 phones that were examined by the committee under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge R V Raveendran, who is a domain expert.

The other members were Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dean of National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar; Dr Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala; and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor at IIT-Bombay.

It is bad enough that the report has been kept away from public gaze as the public has a right to know how their government has been breaching their privacy, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. It is even more damning that the government has refused to cooperate with a probe instituted by the highest court of the land, indicating the extent to which it can go to cover up its misdeeds.

Actually, there is no need for the report to come out to establish government’s guilt. Its responses so far have been good enough to prove the wrongdoing. It has more things to hide than reveal.

The government’s silence is killing. It has not even said yes or no to the question whether the spyware was ever bought from the Israeli company. The refusal to rule that out amounts to confirmation that the government did buy the offending software and has been using it, not to mention without the sanction of law. It has been committing fraud on the people of this country by continuing to snoop on its citizens stealthily and without authority.

The government has been employing diversionary tactics right from the day the matter came up before the court’s consideration.

First, the government tried its best to obstruct the Supreme Court proceedings, by delaying a response to the court’s queries. On the first day of the case being taken up by the court, the government even failed to send its representative, which meant that the court could not have done anything more at that juncture.

The government has also been citing national security for its snooping act, but without satisfactorily explaining how its own citizens were a threat to the nation. It is never tired of equating dissent with treason, which is responsible for many of the Modi government’s draconian measures, of which there is no dearth.

The government has been mixing up patriotism with party loyalty and is quite unabashed in doing so. This is what lies at the root of its distrust with people and their privacy.

What is even more disturbing is that Prime Minster Narendra Modi has so far refused to acknowledge the existence of such a controversy, which is his own way of dodging inconvenient matters. It is a modified version of this strategy that his government has adopted in the Supreme Court with regard to the Pegasus issue.

The Pegasus spyware’s promoter, Israel-based NSO Group, had earlier stated that its snooping tool is sold to governments around the world and is intended to target criminals.

It is for the Modi government to explain to at least the court, if not the people, how such a tool can be used against people in public life, who are as patriotic and nationalistic as anyone in the saffron hue.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 27 Aug 2022, 6:13 PM