Pegasus Snooping Scandal- Relevance for UPSC Exam
- GS Paper 2: Governance, Administration and Challenges- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
Pegasus Snooping Scandal- Context
- Recently, the Supreme Court ordered the institution of an independent probe into the possible misuse of Israeli spyware Pegasus.
- It is an effective intervention to protect citizens from unlawful surveillance.
- It is also a stern rebuff to the Government’s attempt to cover up the issue by using the bogey of ‘national security’.
Pegasus Snooping Scandal- Key Points
- About Pegasus: It is military-grade spyware designed not only to grab data but also to take control of devices.
- Issue: Earlier, nearly 300 of some 50,000 phone numbers allegedly identified for surveillance by Pegasus, belonged to Indians.
- many phones of journalists, activists and even doctors and court staff were targets of military-grade spyware Pegasus.
- Government’s stance: The government instead of holding or facilitating a credible inquiry, chooses to outrightly ignore the issue.
- The government is sticking to a blanket denial of any wrongdoing, without acknowledging whether or not the spyware was available to government agencies.
- The government said that illegal surveillance is not possible in India.
- The government also said that the disclosure of whether or not a particular software suite was used by its agencies would compromise national security.
Pegasus Snooping Scandal- Supreme Court’s Judgement
- The Supreme Court enunciated two clear principles in the spyware Pegasus case:
- Surveillance, or even the knowledge that one could be spied upon, affects the way individuals exercise their rights, warranting the Court’s intervention; and
- There is no omnibus prohibition on judicial review merely because the spectre of national security is being raised.
- On ‘National Security’: National security consideration can’t be used by the state “to get a free pass” for possible violation of citizens’ rights.
- On freedom of press: The SC upheld that intrusive surveillance not only violates the right to privacy but also has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press.
- The Supreme Court rejected the government’s inquiry on its own actions as it would command little credibility.
Pegasus Snooping Scandal- Way Forward
- Government and its surveillance agencies must provide required information to the Supreme Court-supervised panel.
- Government should take a cooperative stance and help the panel in conducting a credible and successful inquiry in the spyware Pegasus issue.