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Right to privacy infringed in spying, be it by state or others, says SC on Pegasus
Right to privacy infringed in spying, be it by state or others, says SC on Pegasus

New Delhi, Oct 28 (TIWN) The Supreme Court on Friday said in a democratic country, governed by the rule of law, indiscriminate spying on individuals cannot be allowed except with sufficient statutory safeguards, as spying done on an individual, either by the state or by any external agency, directly infringes the right to privacy.

The apex court, which appointed a three-member expert panel to probe into the alleged use of Israeli spyware Pegasus for surveillance of certain people in India, highlighted the aspect pertaining to the freedom of press and said it is compelled to take up the cause in the matter to determine truth and get to the bottom of the allegations made.  A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said it is undeniable that surveillance and the knowledge that one is under the threat of being spied on can affect the way an individual decides to exercise his or her rights.  Such a scenario might result in self-censorship. This is of particular concern when it relates to the freedom of the press, which is an important pillar of democracy.

Such chilling effect on the freedom of speech is an assault on the vital public-watchdog role of the press, which may undermine the ability of the press to provide accurate and reliable information, said the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.  In its 46-page order passed on a batch of pleas seeking independent probe into the alleged Pegasus snooping matter, the top court said protection of journalistic sources is one of the basic conditions for the freedom of press and without it sources may be deterred from assisting the media in informing the public on matters of public interest.  Having regard to the importance of the protection of journalistic sources for press freedom in a democratic society and the potential chilling effect that snooping techniques may have, this court's task in the present matter, where certain grave allegations of infringement of the rights of the citizens of the country have been raised, assumes great significance, it said.

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