Pegasus: Solicitor-general seeks time on govt's affidavit decision
The solicitor-general has sought time to submit before the Supreme Court whether the Centre wanted to file a fresh affidavit on the Pegasus snooping controversy.
“Your Lordships, there is some difficulty regarding the affidavit. I could not ensure the stand so far…,” solicitor-general Tushar Mehta told the bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and A.S. Bopanna while pleading for a brief adjournment on the hearing of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the Pegasus question.
The Supreme Court then adjourned the hearing till September 13.
CJI Ramana reminded Mehta that the Centre had already filed an affidavit during the last hearing on August 16.
Mehta replied that the court had then suggested that if the Centre wanted to file an additional affidavit, it could do so.
“Your Lordships had enquired if we would like to file a further affidavit. But for some reasons our officers were not there. I couldn’t meet them…,” he told the bench.
The law officer, however, did not make any commitment on whether at all a fresh affidavit would be filed.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for journalists N. Ram and Sashi Kumar, said the lawyers had no objection to a short adjournment.
The bench said it was posting the matter for further hearing to September 13 (Monday).
At the last hearing on August 16, the court had told the Centre to decide if it wanted to file a fresh affidavit on the Pegasus snooping row as the petitioners had rejected outright the two-page affidavit of the government in which it “unequivocally” denied the allegations of spying, dubbing them mere “conjectures and surmises”.
The apex court and the batch of petitioners had also turned down the government’s plea for appointing an “experts committee” to inquire into the allegations. Justice Ramana had wondered how the committee would go into the various constitutional and legal issues.
Justice Ramana had also told senior advocates Sibal, Shyam Divan, Rakesh Dwivedi and others appearing for the petitioners that the court could not compel the government to file a new affidavit but would certainly pass orders on the petitions.
The bench had said that the petitioners wanted the Centre to answer whether the government had ever bought or used the Israeli spyware Pegasus, and if not what steps had it taken to inquire into the allegations of snooping on judges, politicians, activists, journalists and others.
“If you want to file a detailed affidavit, you can take time and do so,” CJI Ramana had told the government.
On August 5, the Supreme Court had orally observed that the allegations of surveillance on Indian citizens were “serious” and that the “truth has to come out”.