Supreme Court panel wants information from all state DGPs on spyware purchases

A Supreme Court panel investigating the Pegasus case has ordered chief police officers in all states to notify them if they have accessed Israeli spyware, the Hindustan time reported.

In a letter sent to senior police officials on April 18, the technical panel requested information on when the software was acquired. They were also asked to answer questions about the type and quantity of licenses obtained.

“Has any State, State Police, State Intelligence or State or Union Territory Agency of Government with access to Pegasus Spyware used it on any Indian Citizen ?” asked the Secretary General of the Supreme Court, VK Bansal, citing the questions of the technical committee, reported the Hindustan time. “If so, whether permissions or sanctions for such use have been obtained and if so from whom.”

In September, the Supreme Court announced the creation of a technical committee to examine allegations that the Pegasus software was used to target and spy on journalists, politicians, businessmen and government officials.

The surveillance allegations relate to a leaked list, containing more than 50,000 phone numbers, which was accessed by Parisian non-profit media Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. As part of Project Pegasus, the organizations had shared the list with 17 news outlets.

The committee is headed by former Supreme Court Justice RV Raveendran and includes members Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dr Prabaharan P and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, the report reported. Hindustan time.

Pegasus surveillance claims

The spyware is licensed to governments around the world by Israeli cyber-intelligence firm NSO Group. The company insists that it only licenses its software to “controlled governments” with good human rights records and that Pegasus is intended to target criminals.

The list of potential figures who have been targeted using spyware in India includes Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, India’s former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel, industrialist Anil Ambani and former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation Alok Verma.

Responding to the allegations, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Union’s information technology minister, told parliament on July 19 that illegal surveillance was not possible in India.

Later in August, the Ministry of Defense told the Rajya Sabha that it had “not had any transaction with NSO Group Technologies”.

Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, Journalist N Ram, Editors Guild of India, President of Asian College of Journalism Sashi Kumar, MP for Rajya Sabha John Brittas and Lawyer ML Sharma filed petitions to the Supreme Court to request an investigation into the controversy.

In November, the United States Department of Commerce added NSO Group to its trade blacklist.