A public interest plea has been filed with the Supreme Court seeking an investigation by a court-watched special investigative team into allegations of government spying on Indian citizens through Israeli spyware Pegasus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the CBI being cited as respondents.
A lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma, filed the petition on Thursday, arguing that the alleged surveillance not only violated citizens’ basic right to privacy, but that the use of foreign spyware to spy on Indians posed a threat to national security.
Privacy is not a desire to hide, as is often said. It is about having a space of our own where our thoughts and our being are not the instrument of someone else’s goals. It’s an essential component of dignity and agency, says the petition.
Pegasus is cooling software. It’s not just about listening to conversations; it can be used to access the entire digital footprint of your life. This renders not only the owner of the hacked phone helpless, but everyone who comes in contact with him.
Sharma argued that the alleged use of Pegasus to spy on Indians violates Articles 266 (3), 267 (2) and 283 (2) of the Constitution, according to which the government cannot appropriate consolidated funds or emergency without legislative approval.
This implies that if the Supreme Court grants the petition, the alleged source of funds for the alleged purchase of the spyware may fall to the scanner.
Sharma also argued that any spying of citizens’ personal data violates Articles 65, 66 and 72 of the Information Technology Act, which deal with privacy and data misuse, read with section 3 of the Law on Official Secrets.
His petition asks if the Constitution allows a prime minister and his ministers to spy on Indian citizens for their political interests.
He seeks to prosecute those responsible under the Information Technology Act and the Official Secrets Act as well as Articles 408, 409 of the Indian Penal Code (criminal breach of trust by officials) and 120B (association criminals).
Sharma says he was forced to go to the Supreme Court because his representation at the CBI for the registration of an FIR against the officials concerned had failed to provide any response.
His petition says the national security implications of the alleged espionage are enormous at a time when the explosive growth of providers of surveillance technology has become a global security and human rights issue.
He says Pegasus is not just a surveillance tool, but a cyber weapon unleashed on the Indian regime.
Even authorized (which is questionable), the use of Pegasus poses a risk to national security, he adds.
Sharma said the cause of action dates back to November 28, 2019, when Modi and his ministers failed to respond in the Lok Sabha to Congressmen Digvijaya Singh and Jairam Ramesh who asked if the government had purchased the Pegasus software. .
Sharma says a new cause of action emerged on July 20 this year when, at Rajya Sabha, the IT minister failed to answer questions from opposition members about the purchase of Pegasus and its use in India against opposition leaders, human rights. activist (s) and political rivals before and after the 2019 general election.
This is an admission fee, a serious violation of Article 21 (life and liberty including privacy), 266 (3), 267 (2) and 283 (2) of the Constitution of India read with serious financial and personal harm to the citizens of India, the petition says.
The Pegasus scandal is a matter of grave concern and a serious attack on Indian democracy, the justice system and the security of the country. The widespread and unwarranted use of surveillance is morally disfiguring.
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