The court ordered an independent committee to investigate whether and how the Indian state had used the Israeli spyware tool was a significant victory for privacy campaigners after years of stonewalling by Narendra Modi's government.
The order was a response to cases lodged by several Indian journalists and activists, including some revealed by the Guardian and a consortium of reporting partners to have been victims of Pegasus -- a cyber-weapon capable of hacking a target's smartphone, extracting its contents and turning on the device's microphone and camera.
Pegasus is a cyber-weapon capable of hacking a target's smartphone, extracting its contents and turning on the device's microphone and camera.
Analysis by the media outlets of infected phones, and of a wider list of more than 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been selected as persons of interest by clients of Pegasus' manufacturer, NSO Group, strongly indicated the Indian government was using the tool. Delhi has consistently declined to confirm if it has access to it.
The committee will comprise three cybersecurity experts and its work will be overseen by a retired supreme court judge. It will submit its report in two months. The expert group will have powers to call witnesses and seek documents as part of its fact-finding mission, and can issue adverse findings against individuals or the government if they decline to cooperate. The court listed another hearing date for after the committee's reporting deadline, indicating it intended to continue pursuing the issue.