"Allegations Serious If Media Reports Correct": Supreme Court On Pegasus: 10 Points

Dismissing demands for a probe, the government has maintained that there has been no unauthorised interception by its agencies.

Pegasus scandal: The NSO group says it is not connected to the leaked database of phone numbers.

New Delhi: The allegations of Pegasus spyware being used to target opposition leaders, journalists and others are "serious if newspaper reports are correct", the Supreme Court said today as it heard a batch of petitions seeking a special probe into the scandal.

Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:

  1. A two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana, asked all petitioners to serve a copy of their petitions to the government. Justice Surya Kant is the second judge on the bench. The court will take up the petitions again on Tuesday, saying the centre has to present at the hearing.

  2. The Editors' Guild of India, in its petition filed two days ago, requested the Supreme Court to seek details from the government on the spyware contract and a list of those targetted.

  3. Two other petitions were filed earlier in the Supreme Court on the same case, one by CPM MP John Brittas and the other by advocate ML Sharma.

  4. Earlier, senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar had sought a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a sitting former judge into the snooping allegations. "The government needs to tell us how they got into the contract, who they paid for this," their lawyer Kapil Sibal said today. Chief Justice Ramana asked them, "In 2019 itself, issues of Pegasus were reported. Why come to us after two years?"  When Mr Sibal pointed out that there are reports of an old number of a former Supreme Court judge and phones of registrars being on the list of potential targets of snooping, the Chief Justice said, "Truth has to come out. We don't know whose names are there," it said.

  5. "I understand tapping phones of terrorists, etc. But here it's ordinary citizens who may have views opposing the government. Then it's a matter of constitutionality and criminality," the lawyer of journalists SNM Abdi and Prem Shankar Jha told the court today.

  6. Mamata Banerjee has set up a commission of inquiry - consisting of retired Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya and retired Supreme Court Justice MB Lokur - to probe the scandal.

  7. The global media investigation involving several leading publications, including The Wire, has disclosed that 300 phones from India were revealed to be on the list of potential targets on the leaked database of NSO, which supplies Israeli spyware Pegasus. It is not established, however, that all the phones were hacked.

  8. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, ace poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two serving Union Ministers, ex-Election Commissioner, 40 journalists among others were found to be on alleged leaked list of potential targets.

  9. Dismissing demands for a probe, the government has maintained that there has been no unauthorised interception by its agencies, adding that allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever.

  10. The NSO group, which sells Pegasus to governments and government agencies only, says it is not connected to the leaked database of phone numbers. The government has said there is "no substance" in these reports.

Disclaimer:The NSO group, which owns Pegasus, admits this is spyware and is used to hack phones, but says it does business only with governments and government agencies. The Israeli company says it does not corroborate the list of potential targets reported by media companies around the world. The Indian government has said there is "no substance" to the reports of Pegasus being used by it against opposition leaders, journalists and others. NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of the list of those who were supposedly targeted.