The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday made some remarkable observations on the Pegasus snooping row.
Allegations that Israeli-made Pegasus software was used to snoop on journalists, activists and politicians in India are about the violation of fundamental rights and could have a chilling effect, the apex court remarked while setting up an inquiry headed by a retired judge.
It drew attention to how vague denial from the government is not sufficient in this matter.
The SC reiterating the need to set up an inquiry went on to say that the government could not give any clarity despite being given ample opportunity to do so. There had been no specific denial by the Centre.
Taking cognisance of national security, the court said, “the state cannot get a free pass every time national security is raised in the task of upholding of fundamental rights, the state cannot be an adversary.”
The court also declined the government’s request to set up an expert panel; saying it would violate the settled judicial principle against bias.
SC takes cognisance of Pegasus snooping row
The order emphasised how there are various petitions in this case that have been filed by direct victims. “Justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done”, said the Supreme Court.
“In today’s world, restrictions on privacy is to prevent terrorist activity and can only be imposed when needed to protect national security. But the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising national security concerns.
National security cannot be the bugbear that the judiciary shies away from, by virtue of its mere mentioning. Although this court should be circumspect in encroaching the domain of national security, no omnibus prohibition can be called against judicial review. The centre should have justified its stand here and not rendered the court a mute spectator. The court will not encroach upon national security but that does not make the court a mute spectator,” SC added.
These petitions raise important concerns when it comes to freedom of the press. As it is an important pillar of democracy and the protection of sources of journalists.