Pegasus Snooping – Accused Bhima Koregaon’s lawyer writes to SC appointed technical committee suspecting his device has been hacked
A lawyer, who represented several people involved in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad case wrote to the Technical Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate in the allegations of espionage through Pegasus, suspecting that their mobile device has been compromised by Pegasus Malware.
Attorney Nihalsing B Rathod, a practicing attorney based in Nagpur, argued that his phone was intercepted for accessing privileged communication and legal strategies developed on behalf of his clients in the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad.
Mr. Rathod has represented several persons in proceedings arising from Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad, including Surendra Gadding, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe. In addition, he was also consulted on numerous occasions by Anand Teltumbade and Stan Swami before their arrest.
Mr Rathod therefore requested a the ability to appear before the committee and cross-examine any bodies that the committee may call as part of the investigation.
He also requested that the committee’s deliberations be made public and that those willing to provide information be allowed to appear before the committee and to cross-examine any witnesses from government agencies that the committee may call.
Mr. Rathod insisted on the investigation and disclosure of following information:
- Has any agency of the Government of India or any state government or organizations considered to be state agencies within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution purchased Pegasus spyware?
- If so, from what sources was said spyware purchased, what was the amount paid for said purchase and from what budget line was it debited in the records of the acquiring agency?
- Under what authority has leadership been used against lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and politicians?
- Personal information, data and records accessed by operators.
- The law that authorized the use of spyware against me and what is the record of authorizing the use of the spyware against me and my colleagues.
Mr. Rathod indicated the following reasons for believing that his cell phone was hacked using Pegasus, by infiltrating through the WhatsApp application:
- Repeated video calls from different international numbers. A similar thing had happened with Vira Sathidar (now deceased) and Ms Minal Gadling without Adv Surendra Gadling currently in custody at Talajo Prison in the Elgar Parishad Bhima Koregaon case.
- A communication received from someone identifying themselves as associated with the Canada-based Citizen Lab informing them that their phone has been targeted by spyware called Pegasus.
- All this information on targeting his phone and that of several others Human rights activists were later in the public domain when they were approached and gave several interviews to the press and electronic media.
- He was officially informed by Whatsapp that his phone was compromised by the use of spyware and the same was communicated to him via a WhatsApp.
According to him, he has reason to believe that apart from Pegasus, spyware such as Netwire which gives remote access to computing devices has also been used by Indian agencies for similar purposes.
The technical committee formed by the Supreme Court to investigate allegations of espionage using Pegasus spyware had recently requested details from people who suspected that their devices had been targeted by Pegasus spyware before January 7, 2022.
The Committee had issued a public notice in this regard asking those individuals, who believe they are the target of Pegasus spyware, to write to them with the reasons why they believe their devices have been infected with Pegasus spyware.
It was on October 26 last year that the Supreme Court set up a committee of independent experts headed by former Supreme Court justice, Justice RV Raveendran, to investigate allegations of spying on journalists, activists, politicians, etc., using Pegasus spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO. .
A bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana adopted the leadership in view of the Union Government’s refusal to make a clear statement as to whether it used the services of Pegasus spyware or not. The judiciary refused to accept the central government’s “national security” argument, saying the state “would not get a free pass” every time national security was raised and the tribunal would not remain a “silent spectator”. Refusing the Union government’s proposal to set up a committee to examine the matter, the court said that an independent committee is needed to ensure a fair and impartial investigation. Noting that unauthorized surveillance can have a “chilling effect” on press freedom, the Supreme Court ordered an independent investigation into the matter, after ruling that the applicants had established a prima facie case.