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National security cannot be bugbear: SC comes down heavily on Centre over snooping allegations Pegasus
Image Credit: PIB

National security cannot be bugbear: SC comes down heavily on Centre over snooping allegations

IBNS | @indiablooms | 27 Oct 2021, 01:31 pm

New Delhi/IBNS: Slamming the Modi government's response to the snooping allegations, the Supreme Court Wednesday said the judiciary will not shy away from a matter just due to the invocation of "national security".

In strong words, the top court said as quoted by NDTV, "We gave ample opportunity to the government to give details of all (the) action taken by it. But despite repeated chances they gave an affidavit that does not give clarity. If they had clarified they would have reduced the burden on us."

"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 for against judicial review," it added.

In the same line, the apex court said, "It does not mean the state gets a free pass every time (an issue of) national security is raised... mere invocation of national security by (the) state does not render the court a mute spectator."

The Supreme Court Wednesday formed a three-member committee to probe into the snooping allegations that were levelled against the Narendra Modi government earlier this year.

The allegations will be probed by the committee, which will be headed by former Supreme Court judge RV Raveendran.

Names of high profile political personalities like Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, former poll strategist Prashant Kishor, new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister Prahlad Patel and Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee among others have featured in the potential target list of the Israeli spyware, The Wire has reported in an explosive revelation.

Besides key politicians, over 40 Indian journalists and a constitutional authority were also found on the database of NSO as connected to people of interest since 2016, The Wire has reported.

Citing national security, the central government in September stated it won't file an additional affidavit on the Pegasus issue.

The apex court Wednesday stated since the Centre didn't specifically deny the allegations, it has "no option but to accept the submissions of petitioner prima facie and appoint an expert committee whose function will be overseen by the top court", Times Now reported.

Though the particular spyware is sold only to a vetted government, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw countered media reports on the Pegasus issue and said 'illegal surveillance' is not possible in India.

"I’m sure my colleagues in the opposition who have been in Government for years would be well aware of these protocols. Since they have governed the country, they would also be aware that any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and our robust institutions," Vaishnaw had said in Parliament.

Opposition welcomes SC judgement

Congress leader Randeep Surjewala tweeted, "Pseudo-Nationalism is the last refuge of cowardly fascists everywhere. Welcome SC order setting up Spl Committee to examine misuse of spyware #Pegasus despite Modi Govts embarrassing attempts to evade, avoid & divert attention in the name of National Security. Satyamev Jayate!"

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has put up a tweet, "How far can @BJP4India possibly run? They feared every single discussion raised by our Hon'ble MPs in Parliament! We welcome the decision by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. Truth must prevail."