New Delhi / Aug,10 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday told petitioners seeking a probe into the Pegasus scandal that they should “have faith in the system” and not take part in “parallel debates on social media”.
The court also postponed further hearing to Monday, after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, sought more time to read and respond to the petitions.
Chief Justice NV Ramana, who is leading the bench that is hearing these petitions, reminded the petitioners and their lawyers that “when the matter is in court, it should be deliberated here”.
“Why have parallel debates? Whatever you are saying in the media… whatever queries are to be answered… once you come to this court, we expect the debate is taking place (here) and we expect they (the government) will answer the questions we put to them,” the Chief Justice said.
“There must be some discipline. If the petitioners want to say anything, or bring anything to the notice of the court, they can file an additional affidavit…” he added.
The court’s comments regarding “parallel debates” comes after it raised questions over an affidavit filed by senior journalist N Ram, one of the petitioners, in last week’s hearing . A 2019 suit filed by WhatsApp in a district court in California in the United States was mentioned by senior advocate Kapil Sibal – who is appearing for N Ram. Mr Sibal had said the American court had observed that the spyware is sold only to “vetted governments”.
The court flagged a part of the affidavit that appeared to suggest the California court had indicated Indian journalists were being targeted, to which Mr Sibal clarified that this information was part another affidavit – filed before the Supreme Court by the Editors Guild of India.
“… last time it came up in our petition that a California court had mentioned Indian journalists. There was confusion over it. My client (N Ram) later got trolled about it,” Mr Sibal said today.
“This is the problem (with social media debates)… taking the sentence out of context. I had a doubt whether I had read it properly or not. That is why I put the question. Debates should not pass the limits,” the Chief Justice responded.
The Pegasus scandal involves allegations that an Indian client of the Israeli spyware had used it to illegally spy on opposition leaders, journalists and others. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, businessman Anil Ambani and others are on the alleged list of potential targets.
A furious opposition has cornered the government in Parliament on this issue, demanding a detailed discussion in the presence of Prime Minister Modi, and investigation into the allegations.
The government has insisted that no illegal surveillance has been conducted and has, so far, refused to order a probe; the Bengal government has, however, ordered a judicial inquiry. Last Monday the Defence Ministry said that it had no transaction with the NSO group. – Pegasus’ makers. The NSO group has said it is not connected to the leaked databases.