Advocate ML Sharma has filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation after The New York Times on January 28 said that the Narendra Modi-led government had purchased the Pegasus spyware from Israel in 2017, Live Law reported on Sunday.

The newspaper reported that ties between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “warmed” because of their agreement for the sale of “a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion – with Pegasus and a missile system as the center-pieces”.

In his plea, Sharma sought directions from the court to register a first information report for prosecuting the “concerned persons” and to investigate and recover the public money paid as part of the alleged deal.

Sharma said that the alleged purchase deal was not approved by Parliament. The advocate alleged criminal breach of trust by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the prime minister by “embezzling” public money to further the party’s political interests.

Former Union Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said if the last deal was $2 billion, or over Rs 15 thousand crore, India could “do better this time”. He said in a tweet, “If we get more sophisticated spyware ahead of the 2024 elections, we can give them even $4 billion.”

On Saturday, the Congress party said the alleged use of spyware by the Modi government was an “act of treason”. But, Union Minister of State, General VK Singh, tweeted: “Can you trust NYT?? They are known ‘Supari Media’.”

In July, several media organisations across the world had reported on the use of Pegasus, which has been developed by the NSO Group. In India, The Wire had reported that 161 Indians were spied on using Pegasus.

Multiple petitions were filed in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation into the matter. The Supreme Court on October 27 appointed a three-member technical committee to investigate allegations about the Pegasus software. Sharma is also among the petitioners who had approached the Supreme Court last year.

On January 2, the Supreme Court committee issued a public notice urging people to write to with proof of why they suspect their phone was hacked by the spyware. The deadline for submissions was January 7.

The government in August and September had fought off criticism following the media exposés, claiming the reports about Pegasus were “conspiracies”. The Centre claimed it had been brought up to “derail India’s growth” and as revenge for India’s supposedly efficient handling of the coronavirus pandemic.