The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the National Investigation Agency to submit mobile phones of seven accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case to the Supreme Court-appointed technical committee investigating the Pegasus spyware row, reported Live Law.
On February 5, the National Investigation Agency had asked for permission to submit the phones.
The seven accused persons – Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu and Shoma Sen – had earlier written to the committee and expressed apprehensions that their phones may have been hacked by the Israeli spyware.
The committee later wrote to the National Investigation Agency asking for their devices so that it could make copies and inspect them.
Special Judge DE Kothalikar then told the central agency to give a copy of the application to the accused persons or their lawyers and had sought their response.
On January 28, The New York Times reported that India purchased Israeli company NSO Group’s Pegasus software as part of a $2 billion weapons package in 2017.
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 July, several media organisations across the world had reported on the use of Pegasus. In India, The Wire had reported that 161 Indians were spied on using Pegasus.
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.
The Supreme Court on October 27 appointed a three-member technical committee to investigate allegations about the spyware. On January 2, it asked citizens who suspected their phones were targeted by the spyware to write to its panel.
Last month, advocate Nihal Singh Rathod, who has represented some activists accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, wrote to the Supreme Court saying he suspected that his phone was hacked using Pegasus spyware, according to India Today.