A THREE-MEMBER panel, constituted by Supreme Court to look into the allegations of snooping of phones using the Israeli company NSO’s software Pegasus, on Thursday extended till February 8 the time for people who suspect their mobile phones to be infected with the malware, to get in touch with the committee.
In a public notice on Thursday, the three-member panel said in response to its earlier January 2 notice calling for people to get in touch by January 7 and subsequently submit their devices, only two people had till date given their devices to the panel for “taking digital images”.
In the notice issued on January 2, the panel had requested citizens who suspected their devices to be infected with Pegasus, to contact the technical committee with reasons as to why they believe their devices had been infected and whether they would be in a position to allow the three-member committee to examine the infected devices. The committee had then also said that if needed, it would request the person to hand over the device for further investigation.
In the new notice, however, the committee said it would take the “digital image” of the device being submitted, “in presence of the person producing the instrument” and would immediately return the device to that person.
“A digital image copy will also be furnished to the person producing the mobile instrument,” the committee said in the new notice.
The Indian Express had on November 30 last year reported that the panel had asked petitioners in the case to submit the targeted devices for “technical evaluation”.
The members of the panel are Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar; Dr Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala; and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor at IIT, Bombay. It is supervised by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice R V Raveendran.
Earlier this year, following reports that Pegasus had been used to snoop on journalists, activists, officials and even Union Ministers, some of the activists and journalists moved the Supreme Court seeking the formation of a committee to look into the issue.
On October 27, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, ordered the formation of a three-member technical committee to be overseen by Justice Raveendran.
The court had then listed a six-point term of reference for the committee, asking it to determine, among other things, whether Pegasus was used on phones or other devices of citizens to access stored data, eavesdrop on conversations, intercept information and for any other purposes.
The court had also asked the committee to determine whether the software was acquired by a state or the central government, and that if a state, Centre, or any of its agencies had used the software, what laws and procedures were followed.