A Supreme Court committee investigating the Pegasus case has directed the Director Generals of Police of all states to inform them whether they had accessed the Israel spyware, the Hindustan Times reported.

In a letter sent to the senior police officials on April 18, the technical panel asked for information about the date on which the software was procured. They were also directed to respond to questions about the type and quantity of the licences obtained.

“Did any state, state police, state intelligence or agency in the state or Union Territory of the government having access to Pegasus spyware use this on any citizen of India?” asked the Supreme Court’s Secretary General VK Bansal quoting the technical committee’s questions, reported the Hindustan Times. “If so, whether any permissions or sanctions for such use was obtained and if so from whom.”

In September, the Supreme Court had announced setting up a technical committee to look into allegations that the Pegasus software was used to target and spy on journalists, politicians, businesspersons and government officials.

The surveillance allegations pertain to a leaked list, featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers, which was accessed by Paris-based media non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. As part of the Pegasus Project, the organisations had shared the list with 17 news outlets.

The committee is helmed by former Supreme Court judge RV Raveendran, and includes members Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dr Prabaharan P and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, reported the Hindustan Times.

Pegasus surveillance allegations

The spyware is licensed to governments around the world by Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group. The company insists that it licences its software only to “vetted governments” with good human-rights records and that Pegasus is intended to target criminals.

The list of potential personalities who were targeted using the spyware in India include Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel, industrialist Anil Ambani and former Central Bureau of Investigation Director Alok Verma.

Responding to the allegations, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Union information technology minister, had told Parliament on July 19 that illegal surveillance was not possible in India.

Later in August, the Ministry of Defence had told the Rajya Sabha that it has “not had any transaction with NSO Group Technologies”.

Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist N Ram, the Editors Guild of India, Asian College of Journalism chairperson Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas and advocate ML Sharma filed pleas in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation into the controversy.

In November, the United States Commerce Department added NSO Group to its trade blacklist.