The special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Mumbai, on Tuesday, 8 February, allowed the NIA to submit the mobile phones of seven accused in the Bhima Koregaon case to the Supreme Court (SC)-appointed committee probing the Pegasus spyware case.
The seven accused are Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu and Shoma Sen. Their mobile phones were in the custody of the NIA court, after the agency had seized them.
These accused had written to the SC-appointed panel stating that they had reasons to believe that their phones were compromised after having been hacked by the spyware.
The legal counsel for one of the accused had said that the SC-appointed panel had asked the NIA for these mobile phones, and the NIA had on Saturday sought the special court’s permission to provide the same.
After hearing all submissions, Special Judge DE Kothalikar, on Tuesday, passed an order permitting the submission of the mobile devices to the committee.
What Is the Pegasus Connection With the Bhima Koregaon Case?
Criticising the Union government for its refusal to clarify whether it had purchased and used the Pegasus spyware, the apex court had on 27 October, appointed a special Technical Committee to probe allegations regarding the use of the spyware against Indian citizens.
As per the leaked list of names provided last year to The Wire and 15 other international news organisations by France-based media non-profit, Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, as part of a collaborative investigation called the 'Pegasus Project,' names of several of the Bhima Koregaon accused had surfaced.
Further, as per a forensic analysis of activist Rona Wilson’s phone done by Amnesty International, Wilson’s phone was infected with the Pegasus spyware three months before he was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in June 2018, for his alleged role in the violence at the Bhima Koregaon memorial, The Guardian reported, in December 2021.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench and PTI.)