India’s top court probes spying charges against government

NEW DELHI , India's highest court has established a committee to investigate allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi used Israeli-grade spyware for monitoring political opponents and journalists.

India’s top court probes spying charges against government

NEW DELHI , India's highest court has established a committee to investigate allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi used Israeli-grade spyware for monitoring political opponents and journalists.

After an investigation by a global media group in July, petitions were filed to the Supreme Court. A retired judge will head the committee. It is expected to present its findings by year's end.

India's opposition demanded an investigation into the use of Israeli spyware known as Pegasus in India.

Modi's government has "unambiguously" denied any allegations of illegal surveillance. India's information technology minister Ashwani Vaishnaw dismissed the allegations in Parliament in July. He called them "highly sensational", "over-the top" and "an attempt at maligning the Indian democracy.

In an affidavit, the government did not disclose to the court that it had used Israeli equipment for spying. This was cited as security reasons.

The court ruled Wednesday that the state cannot be granted a pass by raising security concerns.

The Press Trust of India cited Chief justice N.V. Ramanna to say that "Violation of right to privacy, freedom of expression, as alleged by pleas, needs be examined."

A global media consortium discovered that spyware from Israel's NSO Group, the most notorious hacker-for hire company in the world, was used to penetrate devices belonging to 50 targets.

According to the company, it sells only to "vetted government agency" that can be used against terrorists or major criminals. It also stated in July that it does not have access into customer data.

Critics claim that these claims are dishonest. They have also provided evidence that NSO directs high-tech spying. They claim that the widespread use of Pegasus spyware is a sign of the almost complete absence of regulation in the private global surveillance market.

Pegasus hacks into phones to steal personal and geographic data. It also secretly controls microphones and cameras on the smartphones. This allows hackers to spy on journalists' communications with their sources.

Rights groups claim that the findings support accusations that both autocratic regimes and democratic governments, including India have used the spyware to achieve political ends.

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