The Supreme Court on Friday granted more time to an expert committee looking into the allegations of illegal surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, to submit its final report, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana asked the committee to complete the examination of 29 mobile phones allegedly targeted by the Pegasus spyware preferably within four weeks, and send a report to a judge supervising the matter. The court told the panel to expedite the process of examining the mobile phones.

The case will be heard further in July.

In February, the court-appointed panel had submitted an interim report. At Friday’s hearing, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing some of the petitioners, demanded that the committee’s report be made public, Live Law reported. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the demand and said that the report was an interim one.

The committee had been set up in September to look into allegations that the Pegasus software was used to spy on journalists, politicians, businesspersons and several others.

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.

Last month, the court-appointed committee had directed the director generals of police of all states to inform them whether they had accessed the Israel spyware.

Pegasus surveillance allegations

The spyware is licensed to governments around the world by Israeli cyber intelligence companyNSO 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.

According to The Wire, the list of potential people who were targeted using the spyware 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, 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”.

Petitions in the Supreme Court

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 have filed pleas in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation into the Pegasus controversy.

Journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Prem Shankar Jha, SNM Abdi, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Ipsa Shataksi, who are reported to have been on the list of potential Pegasus spyware targets, have also moved the Supreme Court on the matter.

During a hearing in the case on August 5, the court had observed that the allegations of surveillance, if correct, were serious in nature.