Shashwati Chowdhury

Published on: July 20 2022 at 18:40 IST

It was highly welcomed last year when Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana decided to probe into allegations that Narendra Modi authorised the use of Pegasus spyware against opposition leaders, journalists, and others. The extent of the government’s cooperation with the “technical committee” he deputed to look into the scandal is unknown when it submits its report.

Former Supreme Court Justice R. V. Raveendran, who now serves as the technical committee’s supervisor,

Details about the civilians who were invited to testify before the Supreme Court and the notices sent to state governments have been provided by the Supreme Court. He has yet to say whether any serving or retired Union government officials deposed before his panel, nor has he said whether the relevant ministries and agencies themselves parted any information or documentation.

Although it is known as the Justice Raveendran committee “technical’, the CJI’s key questions were as follows: Has Pegasus been acquired by the government? And under what laws and procedures was it used against various individuals?

The government had thumbed its nose at the court during the proceedings by submitting the most perfunctory affidavits and refusing to answer any question regarding the acquisition and use of the military-grade spyware on the grounds of national security.

However, given the reason for the Supreme Court’s order, taking such a stance either before the committee or the court would constitute contempt, since CJI Ramana specifically noted that appeals to “national security could not serve as an alibi for the violation of fundamental rights.”

In particular, ten top individual—other than Modi, of course—likely know more about the acquisition and use of the spyware than anybody else, and the Supreme Court must insist that they be called to depose on oath. All of the men are either still in the harness or have received important government assignments after retiring.

It will be embarrassing for the national security establishment these 10 men represent if they insist under oath that the government has not bought and used Pegasus.

Everyone from the prime minister down would be subject to criminal prosecution in accordance with the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Representation of the People Act as this would also imply that public funds and resources were used to interfere the course of the 2019 general election and the 2021 West Bengal assembly election. This would be Watergate and Indira Gandhi-style election malpractice rolled into one.

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