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November 01, 2019

Senior Lawyer Prashant Bhushan To File PIL In SC Seeking Probe By Cyber Experts Into WhatsApp Hacking, Snooping


[ By Bobby Anthony ]

Prashant-Bhushan

Activist and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan plans to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)) in the Supreme Court, seeking an investigation by cyber experts into illegal mass surveillance by means of hacking into WhatsApp accounts of hundreds of human rights activists, lawyers as well as journalists, which came to light recently.

Bhushan has stated that the central government would be asked to come clean about whose phones were tapped and who ordered the spying operation using Pegasus, which is a piece of software created by an Israeli company called NSO Group, which can spy on WhatsApp accounts.

Significantly, Bhushan has also claimed that the Modi government has indulged in illegal surveillance and Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also in charge of information technology, is merely pretending to not know anything about it.

He stated that such spyware or malware which the Israeli government uses can only be used by governments and therefore it is clear that it was either the government itself, or after government orders that the mass spying operation was carried out.

He stated that the mass spying and surveillance operation is “totally illegal”. He stated that it is a gross violation of the right to privacy, which also is a gross violation of several Supreme Court judgments.

The senior lawyer pointed out that the hacking and spying operation violated several Supreme Court judgments, including on the Right to Privacy and a ruling on the People’s Union Of Civil Liberties (PUCL) in which the Supreme Court had established guidelines on about how, as well as under what circumstances, and by following what procedure, phones could be tapped.

He stated that if it was necessary, the government could have conducted surveillance by following procedures mentioned in the 1996 judgment of the Supreme Court.

However, he stated that in this particular case which has come to light, it is clear that the procedures laid down by the Supreme Court have not have been followed.

According to Bhushan, the union telecom minister’s claims of being ignorant of the whole episode also shows that the mass spying operation was conducted unofficially and illegally.

He reasoned that if it had been done legally, then the minister would not have had to pretend that he did not know about it. He reiterated that the spying operation was done illegally without following due process or procedure, which is a gross violation of the law.

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