Pegasus controversy: SC notice to Centre, Bengal on plea against inquiry panel

SUPREME COURT on Wednesday issued notice on a plea to quash the July 27 notification of the West Bengal government setting up a two-member panel to inquire into allegations of use of Pegasus spyware for illegal surveillance.

A bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose issued notice to the Centre as well as the West Bengal government, seeking their response, on the plea filed by NGO Global Village Foundation. The bench said the matter will be taken up on August 25 along with other pending petitions seeking court-monitored inquiry into the controversy.

Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta termed the constitution of the committee “unconstitutional”. Stating that he will assist the bench on the point of constitutionality, he said, “It is unconstitutional is all I can say.”

Advocate Saurabh Mishra, who appeared for the petitioner, said the notification is being challenged on grounds of lack of jurisdiction. He sought an interim order in the form of a stay, submitting that the commission had already issued a public notice and proceedings had started and wondered why a state committee should continue while the Supreme Court is already seized of the matter.

The bench turned down the request with Justice Surya Kant observing that it “is only a preliminary exercise”.

The committee comprises former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur and former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya.

The petition contended that “considering the seriousness of the issue and the implications on the citizenry of the country as well as its cross border implications, the Pegasus controversy warrants an in-depth investigation. This cannot be carried out in a truncated and unconstitutional manner as is sought to be done by the West Bengal government”.

The plea said the “very basis of conducting an inquiry, as per the West Bengal notification, is to inquire into alleged illegal interception of mobile telephones” and that “the terms and reference of the commission of inquiry is beyond the jurisdiction of the state government and clearly encroaches upon the fields squarely falling in the domain of the Union government”.

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