Pegasus Spyware Case

Pegasus Spyware Case

News: The Supreme Court has appointed an independent expert technical committee overseen by a former apex court judge, Justice R.V. Raveendran, to examine allegations that the government used Israeli spyware, Pegasus, to snoop on its own citizens.

What is Pegasus?
• All spyware do what the name suggests — they spy on people through their phones.
• Pegasus works by sending an exploit link, and if the target user clicks on the link, the malware or the code that allows the surveillance is installed on the user’s phone.
• A presumably newer version of the malware does not even require a target user to click a link.
• Once Pegasus is installed, the attacker has complete access to the target user’s phone.

SC’s Judgement:
• The three-judge bench, headed by CJI N V Ramana rejected the government’s plea to let it constitute an expert panel to investigate the issue.
• The court rejected the government’s plea to set up its own probe.The court asserted that the government appointment of probe would violate the settled judicial principle against bias, i.e., that ‘justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done’,”
• On account of the government's inaction to file a detailed response to the allegations made by the petitioners, the Court has constituted a panel of experts under former SC judge Justice R V Raveendran.
• The court has also asked the Raveendran committee to make recommendations on a legal and policy framework to protect citizens against surveillance and enhance cyber security of the country.
• The court has set seven terms of reference for the committee, which are essentially facts that need to be ascertained to decide the issue.
 


Issues Addressed by the SC:
• The court reiterated that right to privacy is as sacrosanct as human existence and is inalienable to human dignity and autonomy.The Right to Privacy was held as a part of fundamental rights by the Supreme Court in K S Puttaswamy case, 2017.Any surveillance or snooping done on an individual by the state or any outside agency is an infringement of that person’s right to privacy.
• The Court has drawn a link between surveillance and self-censorship.The knowledge that one is under the threat of being spied on leads to self-censorship and potential chilling effect.The chilling effect surveillance can produce is an assault on the vital public-watchdog role of the press, which may undermine the ability of the press to provide accurate and reliable information (Free Speech).It further held that, an important and necessary corollary of such a right is to ensure the protection of sources of information.
• The Court has ruled that the state does not get a “free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is raised”.This also means “no omnibus prohibition can be called for against judicial review” if the matter impinges on national security.Hence, any violation of that right by the state, even in national interest, has to follow procedures established by the law.Further, the order is a strong rebuttal of the government’s specious and self-serving use of national security as a ground to criminalise the forms of dissent.  

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