Malware found in 5 phones, not established if it’s Pegasus spyware: SC

was found in five of 29 devices but it could not be concluded if it was Israeli-made spyware Pegasus, said the on Thursday as it accused the government of not cooperating with an independent committee’s investigation.

The court-appointed committee submitted a sealed report before a Bench of CJI N V Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli. The report was submitted in three parts: two by the technical committee and one by the overseeing committee led by a retired judge, Justice R V Raveendran.

The court said the government had not cooperated with the committee and it took the same stand as in previous hearings, where it refused to clarify if it had purchased Pegasus to snoop on Indian citizens.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, in response, said, “If they had asked ‘whether you are using a particular malware’, we would have said ‘we are not using it’.

People who submitted their phones for the committee’s examination requested the court to not release the report as the matter pertains to national security. The technical committee’s report contains information about malware, public research mate­rial, and material extracted from private mobiles containing confidential information. The committee has said its report is confidential.

The SC said it had reservations about the report and will consider if a redacted version can be made public. It will be put up on the court’s website Justice Raveendran’s report that talks about suggestions on protecting citizens, government accountability, amending the law to improve privacy, and other things.

The court set up the independent committee to probe whether Indian authorities had procured and used Pegasus on journalists, activists, and politicians, acting after a political uproar that held up Parliament’s monsoon session last year. The court is likely to hear the matter again after four weeks.

Anupam Shukla, Partner, Pioneer Legal says the committee has echoed the concerns of various privacy advocates that Indians are very prone to data breaches and unauthorised surveillance including through .

“This again highlights the need for a robust and effective data protection framework for India to protect the fundamental right to privacy of its citizens” he said.

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