Persist with an Investigation: The Hindu Editorial on the Pegasus Surveillance Investigation
New report on Pegasus use signals need to take investigation to logical conclusion
It’s hard not to agree with the argument that there can be no parallel investigation by a commission of inquiry into the allegations of illegal surveillance using Pegasus spyware after the Supreme Court ordered an independent investigation. It is therefore not surprising that the highest court suspended the functioning of the Commission set up by the government of West Bengal and headed by the retired judge, Judge Madan B. Lokur. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had taken note of the surveillance allegations that may have targeted figures in West Bengal, and was on good legal footing when she took the first legal step to uncover the truth. This was a measure which was justified by the circumstances at the time, given the Union government’s refusal to admit that it possessed such spyware or if those identified by an international media investigation as targets were subject to any surveillance in the country. Reports from an international consortium of journalists indicated that 300 of the 50,000 likely targets of Pegasus spyware were Indians. Subsequently, the government also refused to cede any land to the Supreme Court and refused to answer simply “yes” or “no” to the questions of the Court. Obstructing his attempts to lift him up in parliament and sticking to his guns in court, the government inevitably invited a court order for an independent inquiry. Significantly, the judiciary, headed by Indian Chief Justice NV Ramana, ruled that the national security scarecrow was not sufficient reason not to conduct a credible investigation into the allegations.
A new report suggesting that Pegasus was used to target jailed activist Rona Wilson’s cell phone underscores the urgent need to further investigate the illegal use of spyware in India. US forensic investigation firm Arsenal Consulting said Mr Wilson’s phone had been attacked up to 49 times and was successfully infected by the time he was arrested in June 2018 for his involvement. alleged in the Bhima Koregaon case. Previously, the company claimed that NetWire, a remote access Trojan, was used to crash letters on Mr. Wilson’s computer. Lawyer and co-accused Surendra Gadling was also targeted in the same way. These developments raise suspicions as to the authenticity of the evidence invoked to try him and others for an unfounded Maoist plot. There is no doubt that the court-ordered investigation by experts overseen by a panel led by retired Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran should reach its logical conclusion and that the country be informed if Pegasus, or other spyware, was used. infect the cell phones and other devices of lawyers, activists and journalists, among others. There is much to be done in this judicially overseen investigation, and it is incumbent on the government of the day to extend its full cooperation and not hamper its independent functioning.