Five journalists have moved the Supreme Court, contending the unauthorised use of surveillance by government agencies have violated their fundamental rights and they are directly affected by the use of Pegasus spyware.
The petitioners — Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, S.N.M. Abdi, Prem Shankar Jha, Rupesh Kumar Singh, and Ipsa Shatakshi – urged the top court to issue directions to the Centre to produce and disclose all materials and documents, with respect to all investigation, authorisation, and orders pertaining to the use of Pegasus on them.
The petitioners alleged they were subjected to deeply intrusive surveillance and hacking by government or some other third party.
In July, veteran journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar had moved the top court seeking a direction for an independent probe by its sitting or retired judge into the alleged Pegasus snooping scandal.
Advocate M.L. Sharma and CPI-M Rajya Sabha member John Brittas have also moved the apex court seeking probe into the spying allegations.
A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Surya Kant is scheduled to take up matters connected with Pegasus snooping on August 5.
The plea filed through advocate-on-record Prateek Chadha cited the threat posed by this nature of surveillance to journalistic sources and whistle-blowers. The petitioners asked the top court to intervene to ensure free press can continue to exist, and also sought that a judicial oversight mechanism be put in place to deal with any complaints on illegal breaches of privacy and hacking.
The petitioners insisted that action should be taken against all government officials responsible for such breaches.
The journalists claimed the forensic examination of their mobile phones done by Amnesty International has revealed they were targeted using the Pegasus malware.
“The petitioner apprehends that the Pegasus attack on him and other journalists in India will stop confidential informants and whistle-blowers from coming forward and bringing to light wrongdoing at various levels of government and as such, have a detrimental effect on transparency in governance all across India,” said the plea filed by Thakurta.