Pegasus snooping: SC extends 4 weeks’ time for submitting the final probe report. A total of 29 phones were submitted for examination

Will the SC committee also clarify if Social Media software like FACEBOOK and WhatsApp are safe from snooping?

Will the SC committee also clarify if Social Media software like FACEBOOK and WhatsApp are safe from snooping?
Will the SC committee also clarify if Social Media software like FACEBOOK and WhatsApp are safe from snooping?

Is a Pegasus-like software the only way to snoop into conversations?

The Supreme Court on Friday extended the time for submitting the report by the apex court-appointed technical and supervisory committees to look into the Pegasus row, saying 29 “infected” mobile phones are being examined for the spyware and the process should be over in four weeks. The Bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said the technical committee has been examining mobiles for the spyware and has also recorded statements of persons including some journalists and activists. Among the 29 mobile phones, the probe panel got seven phones from NIA Court, which was handling cases related to Maoists.

Standard operating procedure for testing the ‘infected devices’ will be finalized too, it said, adding the probe by the technical committee may be over by the May end and then the supervisory judge would be making a report for the perusal of the bench. Referring to the receipt of an interim report, the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said that the technical committee, which has received 29 mobiles for examining the spyware, has developed its software for this purpose and issued notices to some government agencies and individuals including journalists.

“It has prayed for time to submit its report. Now, it is under process. We will give them time,” said the apex court. “Preferably, the process by the technical committee should be over in four weeks and the supervisory judge should be informed. The supervisory judge shall submit his report thereafter. List sometime in July,” said the bench.

The bench did not pass any order concerning the request made by senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who has been appearing for some petitioners, that the interim report is made available to the parties. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the report is an interim one and need not be made public at this stage.

The Supreme Court on October 27, last year had ordered a probe into the allegations of use of Israeli spyware by government agencies for targeted surveillance of politicians, journalists, and activists have now fixed the case for further consideration in July. The panel, which included three experts on cyber security, digital forensics, networks, and hardware, was asked to “inquire, investigate and determine” whether Pegasus spyware was used for snooping on citizens and their probe would be monitored by a former apex court judge Justice R V Raveendran.

The panel members were Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Prabaharan P, and Ashwin Anil Gumaste. Justice Raveendran, who is heading the monitoring panel, has been assisted by former IPS officer Alok Joshi (former RAW Chief) and Sundeep Oberoi, Chairman of Sub Committee in International Organisation of Standardisation/ International Electro-Technical Commission/ Joint Technical Committee – in monitoring the inquiry of the technical panel.

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