Pegasus Spying Row: Ex-RSS Leader Withdraws Petition Seeking Probe
Govindacharya’s PIL sought a perjury probe and FIR against WhatsApp
Former RSS leader KN Govindacharya on Monday, 2 December, withdrew his petition from the Supreme Court seeking a probe into the WhatsApp-Pegasus spyware row, where the phones of at least 121 Indian citizens were hacked and snooped on.
Govindacharya had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 4 November, seeking perjury proceedings against WhatsApp as well as a National Investigation Agency (NIA) investigation.
His prayer also included lodging of FIRs against Facebook, WhatsApp and the Israeli company, the NSO Group, which developed the spyware.
According to LiveLaw, a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde did not go into the merits of the PIL but told the petitioner’s senior counsel that there were several mistakes in the petition and that the relief sought was improper.
The bench also suggested that the petition be taken up at the high court level.
The petitioner’s counsel agreed to withdraw the petition and sought permission to re-file it after making amendments. He, however, argued that the Supreme Court was the appropriate forum for the PIL as it was a matter of national importance.
The PIL was filed in the wake of the Pegasus spying row, first reported on 31 October. WhatsApp had confirmed that Indians were targets of surveillance by a sophisticated spyware called Pegasus, developed by the Israeli NSO Group.
Those targeted mostly included human rights lawyers, anti-caste activists, journalists etc.
The NSO Group has consistently maintained – and also responded to The Quint as saying – that it sells licenses to Pegasus only to governments and government law enforcement agencies.
It categorically reiterated that it does not sell the spyware to non-government entities.
Union Electronics & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, has persistently refused to answer questions, in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, about whether a government agency had purchased the spyware and deployed it against Indians.
In a separate case, Govindacharya had also filed a petition to be included as an intervener in the WhatsApp traceability case.
Referring to the traceability case, in which the government is seeking to compel the messaging platform to break encryption to provide lawful access to communications, the former RSS ideologue had argued that WhatsApp did not disclose the spyware to the Supreme Court.
“That it is clear that WhatsApp misled this Hon’ble Court into believing that its systems were safe. WhatsApp deliberately did not disclose the NSO hacking during proceedings before the Hon'ble Supreme Court, and thus has committed perjury,” Govindacharya’s PIL contended.
(With inputs from LiveLaw)
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