Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the apex court that he needed time till Friday to take instructions from the Centre. On this, the CJI N V Ramana said he had a personal difficulty on Friday and posted the matter for hearing on August 16.
While adjourning the hearing, the SC asked petitioners to not run a parallel debate on social media.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar who have filed one of the petitions in the matter, said Ram was trolled on social media after the last hearing on the issue of court proceedings related to Pegasus in California.
The bench said, “This is what we are saying. We ask questions from parties. We take both parties to task. The matter should be deliberated here and it should not be debated on social media and websites. Parties should have faith in the system.”
The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas, including the one filed by the Editors Guild of India, seeking an independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter.
Allegations of Pegasus related snooping are “serious in nature” if reports on them are correct, the Supreme Court had said on August 5 and asked the petitioners seeking probe into the Israeli spyware matter whether they have made any efforts to file criminal complaint on this.
A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant stopped short of issuing notice on the pleas and took exception that one of the petitions has made an individual (Prime Minister) a party.
The apex court, which asked the petitioners to serve the copies of the pleas to the Centre so that somebody from the government is present before it on August 10 to accept notice, also questioned why the matter has suddenly cropped up now when it had come to light way back in 2019.
The pleas are related to reports of alleged snooping by government agencies on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes by using Israeli firm NSO’s spyware Pegasus.
An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware.
Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers — Prahlad Singh Patel and Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw — businessman Anil Ambani, a former CBI chief, and at least 40 journalists are on the list on the leaked database of NSO. It is, however, not established that all the phones were hacked.
The government has been denying all opposition allegations in the matter.
( With agency inputs)