The letter mentioned the government’s evasive responses to Pegasus surveillance, claiming that the authority responsible for directing such surveillance was the Home Secretary.

Tamil Nadu MP Thol Thirumaavalavan has written to India’s Attorney General KK Venugopal asking for his consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against the directors of the Israeli NSO group, as well as current Interior Minister Ajay Bhalla and former Interior Minister Rajiv Gauba . The letter cites her involvement in “military surveillance” of a Supreme Court judge, two Supreme Court registrars and a Supreme Court employee who made sexual harassment allegations against then Indian Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

One recently expose by a consortium of 17 news outlets revealed that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to (possibly) monitor politicians, lawyers, activists and journalists, among others. Have these revelations Impact on the State of Surveillance and Privacy in India.

Thol Thirumaavalavan is the President of Viduthalai Ciruthaigal Katchi (VCK). He has applied for permission to initiate criminal contempt proceedings under Article 129 of the Constitution of India and the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Medianama tried to contact Thirumaavalavan but his office refused to comment, stating the matter was secondary.

Details of the letter

“The rule of law is the foundation of any democratic society. The judiciary is the guardian and protector of the rule of law. The judiciary of India not only has a duty to resolve conflicts, but also a special and additional duty to oversee that all individuals and institutions, including the executive and legislative branches, act within the framework of the Constitution. ”- Letter from MP Thirumaavalavan

  • Thirumaavalavan cited the government’s “ambiguous and vague” responses to the questioning about the use of Pegasus in Parliament.
  • Claiming that the authority responsible for interception, surveillance or decryption is the Interior Minister under the rules of the Telegraph Act and the IT Act, the letter suggested that “both Mr. Bhalla and Mr. Gauba will be charged as suspected criminals” proposed petition to contempt. “
  • The letter said that an attempted surveillance by a Supreme Court judge who was in office in 2019 when his number was added to the database, along with registrars who worked in the Supreme Court’s crucial ‘writing department’, “interfered and “impede the administration of justice and thus fall under the definition of criminal disregard of the court P. 2 (c) (iii) of Disregard of Courts Act, 1971. ”
  • Although Judge Mishra said the phone number added to the list of potential surveillance suspects was released by him back in 2014, the letter claims that the fact that his number was added to the target list while he was a judge is sufficient reason for the initiation of contempt.
  • The letter also raised concerns about the list of the phone number of a court clerk who accused then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in April 2019, her family numbers were on the list.

Further demands for investigation of the Pegasus surveillance

Investigative Commission of West Bengal: The Prime Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee, set up an investigative commission, including Judge Lokur and Judge Bhattacharya, to investigate the Pegasus spyware problem. West Bengal was the first state to set up a committee to investigate the matter.

Applications to the Supreme Court: A series of petitions from journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, N Ram, Sashi Kumar, Rupesh Kumar Singh, Ipsa Shatakshi, Prem Shankar Jha, SNMAbdi, ADR co-founder Jagdeep Chhokar *, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas, ML Sharma lawyer and civil rights activist Narendra Mishra seeks an impartial investigation into the Pegasus controversy.

List of potential targets for monitoring

The cable disclosed the names of 161 people who were targets or potential victims of Pegasus surveillance, some of them are listed below –

  • Justice Arun Mishra He is a retired Supreme Court Justice and currently heads the National Commission on Human Rights (NHRC). During his tenure at the Supreme Court, Mishra presided on politically sensitive cases such as the Haren Pandya murder case, changes to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, cases of bribery at medical universities, among others.
  • NK Gandhi and TI Rajput – NK Gandhi and TI Rajput are two former Supreme Court registrars who have served in the crucial “writing” section of the court, the report said. Rajput and Gandhi’s cell phones were not available for a forensic investigation, so it could not be clearly determined if they were people of interest or if they were being monitored.
  • Rahul Gandhi – The leader of the Congress Party, who was also the presumed Prime Minister candidate for Congress in the 2019 general election – the year his name was added to the list.
  • Ashwini Vaishnaw – A former IAS official and currently Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology in the Union Cabinet.
  • Prahlad Singh Patel – Newly appointed Minister of State for Jal Shakti in the Union Cabinet.
  • Prashant Kishor – Kishor is an electoral strategist who represented Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 election and has since represented several other parties, including the Trinamool Congress in the recent parliamentary elections in West Bengal
  • Abhishek Bannerjee – West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjees nephew and a Trinamool Congress MP
  • Pradeep Awasthi – Personal Secretary to Former Prime Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia.
  • Sanjay Kachroo – A corporate executive appointed as her special envoy by Smriti Irani, the former minister for human resource development, in 2014.
  • G. Parameshwara: Deputy Prime Minister under the JD (S) congressional coalition government in Karnataka overthrown after several MLAs defected to the BJP.
  • Satic: Former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s personal secretary
  • Venkatesh: Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah’s personal secretary
  • Manjunath Muddegowda: Former Prime Minister and JD (S) President HD Devegowda’s security guards

* Disclaimer: Jagdeep Chhokar is related to Nikhil Pahwa, the founding editor of MediaNama.

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