Pegasus – GOI again comes to Supreme Court without an affidavit

Supreme Court says it feels compelled to pass an order in 2 or 3 days

Supreme court on pegasus
Supreme court on Pegasus

At the Supreme Court hearing on 13 September 2021 to again take up the numerous petitions on using the Israeli NSO Pegasus spyware against Indian citizens, the government again could not provide the affidavit they had sought additional time for delivering.

A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli is hearing the case to determine who ordered the expensive malware to be injected into the cellphones journalists and others. The phones were apparently hacked without their permission or knowledge – and any legal process or security concern being voiced.

The government now seems to have changed its mind about filing an affidavit at all. Instead, Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, urged the court to allow the government to form a committee of ‘Domain Experts’ who can look into the allegations that have been filed against them by several citizens, journalists, politicians, and human rights activists. The Solicitor General assured the court that its ‘Domain Experts’ will have no relation with the government so that the experts can check and place their report in front of it.

Several petitioners’ advocates questioned the idea of the domain experts committee submitting a report.

Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, in whose phone the Amnesty International lab found evidence of the use of Pegasus, represented by senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, said, “In one place they say that the allegations are baseless but in other place they say allegations are serious and so they are constituting a committee.”

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves too struck a similar note, “…[W]e cannot rely on the principal wrongdoer to form a committee and do an investigation.”

Supreme Court reserves verdict

The Supreme Court repeated what it had said earlier regarding the affidavit, “We are repeatedly saying that we don’t want things on national security in the public domain. Petitioners have also said. Suppose the committee is formed. Its report will also come in the public domain.”

Justice Kant asked, “The court just wanted to know whether you have violated the privacy of the citizen or not. The surveillance has been done with permission or not. Is there any interception done by other agencies unlawfully or not?”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for journalists N Ram and Shashi Kumar, said the government not filing the detailed affidavit was “unbelievable.”

“We are reserving and will pass an interim order. It might take 2-3 days to pass the orders,” the bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said after hearing the petitioners and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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