Five journalists who were on the list of alleged surveillance targets by Indian government agencies using Israeli hacking software Pegasus on Monday filed writ petitions with the Supreme Court of India stating that the agencies violated their fundamental rights, guaranteed under the Constitution of India, through unauthorized use of surveillance.
According to the petitioners, the forensic examination of their mobile phones conducted by Amnesty International has revealed that their mobile phones were targeted using the Pegasus malware. They argued that unauthorized surveillance through such sophisticated software violates the fundamental right to privacy and deters informants or whistleblowers from coming forward and highlighting wrongdoings at various levels of government. As such, such widespread surveillance will also have a detrimental effect on transparency in governance all across India.
The petition also highlights that France’s national cybersecurity agency, Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information (ANSSI), confirmed cyber-attacks using Pegasus on the phones of two journalists from the country’s online investigative journal Mediapart. The petitioners have also asked the court to set up an oversight mechanism to handle complaints against unauthorised violations of privacy and take punitive action against the offending government officials.
Previously, news-outlet The Wire in its report confirmed that the mobile phones of the 40 Indian journalists, political leaders, election strategist Prashant Kishore, former election commission members and the woman staffer who raised the sexual harassment allegations against the former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as well as some of her family members, were under surveillance using Pegasus.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India on Thursday will hear petitions filed by Member of Parliament John Brittas, and veteran journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar seeking a judicial probe into the controversy.