Express News Service

NEW DELHI: With the Centre again refusing to file a detailed affidavit on whether or not it used the Pegasus software to snoop on journalists and members of the civil society, the Supreme Court on Monday said it will pass its interim order on a batch of petitions in a two-three days.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Centre did not want matters of national interest to be part of public discourse or judicial debate through an affidavit. “Existence of whether a particular software was used or not cannot become part of an affidavit or subject of public discourse. Target groups, terror groups should not know what software is being used,” Mehta told the bench led by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana. 

“We will set up a committee of domain experts. The petitioners who say their numbers were put under interception can be considered by the committee. The committee report will be placed before your lordships,” Mehta added.

But the bench said Mehta was beating around the bush. “We just wanted you to clarify whether their (civil society) privacy was violated or not. Whether surveillance, if done at all, was after lawful permission. Was the interception done by any agency unlawfully? Should the government not be concerned if any ‘outside agency’ had violated our citizens’ privacy?” it asked. Mehta responded saying that he had have already filed an affidavit saying there was no unauthorised interception.

Pointing out that it had given fair opportunity to the Centre to make its statement, the CJI said, “Now we have to look into the whole issue and decide something.” The court then reserved its interim orders. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, who are among the petitioners, said the government cannot tell the SC to ‘shut your eyes’.

Sibal’s counter“My friend (Mehta) says making that statement on oath itself is detrimental to national security. I am sorry, it is detrimental to the process of justice,” Kapil Sibal said