The Centre filed a two-page affidavit in the Supreme Court (SC) "unequivocally" denying all allegations of government-aided snooping using Pegasus, a military-grade spyware sold by Israel-based NSO group.
The reply stated that "with a view to dispel any wrong narrative spread by certain vested interests and with an object of examining the issues raised, the Union of India will constitute a Committee of Experts in the field which will go into all aspects of the issue."
The Centre's reply was filed in the Supreme Court which is hearing a batch of pleas that sought a court-monitored probe in the use of the Pegasus spyware. The Pegasus Project is an investigation carried out by a global consortium of media organisations including The Wire from India on a leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by NSO owned Pegasus spyware.
The affidavit filed by the Ministry of Information and Technology further submitted that allegations of the government snooping on union cabinet ministers, journalists, Supreme Court judge while he was in office, SC staffers, civil rights activists among others were "conjectures and surmises or on other unsubstantiated media reports or incomplete or uncorroborated material".
"It is submitted that this question stands already clarified on the floor of the Parliament by the [Ashwini Vaishnaw] Hon'ble Minister of Railways, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology of India, Government of India," the affidavit stated.
On July 18, Vaishaw read out a statement on the Pegasus issue which was drowned out amid the ruckus in the Parliament. In the past, similar claims were made regarding the Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including in the Supreme Court. The press reports of 18th July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions," Vaishanw had said.
The Monsoon Session got washed out as the Opposition forced adjournments and refused to participate in proceedings unless the government agreed to debate on the Pegasus issue and Farm Laws.