Mobile Devices of Bhima Koregaon Accused to be sent to TC for Investigating Alleged snooping

Mitali Palnitkar

Published On: February 08, 2022 at 17:35 IST

The mobile devices of the seven Accused in the Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad Case will be submitted to the Technical Committee (TC) appointed by the Supreme Court to Probe Allegations of Snooping using Pegasus spyware. This was decided after the Special Court allowed the Plea of National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Special Judge DE Kothalikar directed to hand over the devices from Court’s Custody to TC for analysis. The Registrar will likely submit the devices to the Investigating Officer on February 9, 2022.

On February 5, 2022, the NIA approached the Court after the TC wrote to it about the written request of the seven Accused – Rona Wilson, Anand Teltumbde, Vernon Gonsalves, P Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Hany Babu, and Shoma Sen.

On October 2021, the Supreme Court directed to constitute an independent expert committee to look into the Allegations of surveillance of activists, journalists, politicians, etc using the Pegasus spyware. The functioning of the committee is monitored by former Supreme Court Judge RV Raveendran, who is assisted by two others.

The Accused wrote to the TC that they suspected Snooping using Pegasus spyware. It was confirmed by a US based Forensic Consulting firm that Rona Wilson’s phone was infected with Pegasus Spyware before his Arrest on June 8, 2018.

The Accused also mentioned that 26 devices were seized at the time of their Arrest. The TC wrote to NIA to access, copy, and inspect the devices.

In the Case, 15 civil rights activists and academics were incarcerated and are facing charges under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 based on the letters retrieved from the computer of Rona Wilson and co-accused Surendra Gadling in relation to a Conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister. The Case against Father Stan Swamy was suspended after his death in 2021.

Initially, the Pune Police was Investigating the Case but later the NIA took over the Investigation. The Accused have been claiming that their devices were hacked and Evidences were planted against them.

A US Digital Forensic Consulting Firm, Arsenal Consulting submitted three reports concluding that the Electronic Evidences were planted against the Accused.

The first report submitted that Wilson’s computer was infected with a malware called NetWire, planted through an email on June 13, 2016 which was 2 years before his Arrest on June 6, 2018. In relation to this, a Petition is pending before Bombay High Court.

The third report dated June 18, 2021 submitted that Gadling’s computer was compromised for over 20 months by the same cyber attacker mentioned in the first two reports.

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