RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya has moved the Supreme Court seeking action against WhatsApp, its parent company Facebook and the NSO Group Technologies, for their alleged involvement in the NSO-Pegasus snooping case in which an Israeli spyware was used hack into the phones of Indian journalists, activists and politicians.
Urging the Supreme Court to initiate perjury proceedings against WhatsApp, the petitioner has also prayed to order an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against these companies.
Govindacharya has written a separate letter to electronics and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad seeking an NIA probe against the WhatsApp, Facebook, NSO Group Technologies and Q Cyber Technologies for snooping on private information.
In his plea to the apex court, Govindacharya said that WhatsApp is liable for perjury for misleading the Supreme Court by claiming (in an earlier hearing) that all its systems were encrypted, and “deliberately did not disclose the NSO hacking during the proceedings”.
The petition comes days after WhatsApp, a subsidiary of Facebook on October 30 revealed that its systems were hacked by Israel based surveillance-company NSO Group Technologies. It stated that Pegasus, an Israeli spyware was used to spy on 121 Indian journalists, lawyers, senior government officials and human rights activists. The Congress later claimed that the phones of three Opposition leaders including its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were hacked by the government.
Pointing to the discrepancy the petitioner said that such “…interception strikes at the core of human life and privacy and thus cannot be allowed without any lawful purpose and process.”
Quoting NSO’s claim that it only sells its technology to government agencies, the petitioner said that in case the government is doing illegal surveillance of citizens, it shows its scant respect for the rule of law by the instrumentalities of the state. “In case private agencies are doing surveillance of Indian citizens, the same cannot be allowed the government, which has a duty to protect the fundamental rights,” he stated.
The petitioner has prayer the court to:
- Direct for perjury proceedings against WhatsApp for deliberately misleading the Supreme Court during the transfer of the petition claiming that “user data is fully encrypted and no one including Whatsapp has the key”
- Direct a probe by NIA and filing of FIR against Facebook, WhatsApp, NSO group under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Indian Penal Code, 1860 for violating fundamental privacy of Indians
In the interim, the petitioner has urged the apex court to direct the government to i) stop any surveillance through Pegasus or other similar applications; and ii) notify Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018.