"This petition is not merely about NSO and Pegasus but a challenge to India’s communications surveillance mechanism that stands in contrast with the other democracies of the world for lack of any judicial or parliamentary oversight," read a writ petition filed by Degree Prasad Chouhan and Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) in the Supreme Court of India in August 2021."India is the only democracy where communications surveillance continues to be the exclusive domain of the executive arm of the government with no provisions for judicial oversight," the petition added. The petition, a copy of which has been reviewed by MediaNama, draws attention to the fact that the Indian government is adopting technologies like facial recognition at a time when other democracies are announcing moratoriums on it. It added that these technologies are being used to stifle political dissent and violate the human rights of Indian citizens. The respondents in the petition are the Union government, the Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology, CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team), and all Indian state governments and union territories. Background: An investigation called The Pegasus Project, by 17 news organisations led by Forbidden Stories, accessed a data leak that revealed more than 50,000 phone numbers as either targets or potential targets of surveillance by several government clients. Out of 50,000, nearly 300 phone numbers belonged to Indian citizens engaged in journalism, activism, politics, business, etc. The revelations brought to light by the Pegasus Project could have serious ramifications on the sanctity of fundamental rights such as the right to privacy. The…
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