The Supreme Court has appointed a three-member panel, supervised by retired judge Justice RV Raveendran, to look into charges of snooping and phone-tapping using the Israel-origin Pegasus spy software.
The committee, which has to submit its report in eight weeks, comprises Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar; Dr Prabaharan P, Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala; and Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste, Institute Chair Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. These members are experts on cyber security, digital forensics, networks and hardware.
Here’s a look at the panel in detail:
Justice Raveendran: A highly-respected member of the law community, he was recently referred to by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana as “one of the legends who have increased the prestige of the Supreme Court of India”. Justice Raveendran has been given the responsibility to “oversee the functioning of the committee with respect to the methodology to be adopted, procedure to be followed, enquiry and investigation that is carried out and preparation of the report.”
Prof Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary: A dean at National Forensic Sciences University in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, he is also an expert in cyber security, e-governance, digital forensics, network security and communication engineering. Prof Chaudhary received the Chairman Chief of Staff Committee Commendation award for drafting a visionary document on space technology capacity building in 2015. He is also a member of a University Grants Commission panel on developing an ecosystem for cyber security in higher education institutions.
Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste: Dr Gumaste holds the position of Institute Chair associate professor (computer science and engineering) at IIT Bombay. “He has been granted 20 US patents and has published over 150 papers and authored 3 books in his field. He has received several National awards including the Vikram Sarabhai Research Award (2012) and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology (2018). He has also held the position of Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA,” the top court said. Optical networks, broadband communication, end-to-end networks are some of the areas he specialises in. Dr Gumaste played a critical role in the development of carrier ethernet switch routers.
Dr Prabaharan P: He is a professor at Kerala’s Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham School of Engineering and specialises in cybersecurity. Dr Prabaharan has published several papers on deep malware detection, intrusion detection and ransomware detection. “His areas of interest are malware detection, critical infrastructural security, complex binary analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the SC bench said.
The panel has been tasked with investigating what steps were taken by the Centre after reports were published in 2019 about hacking of WhatsApp accounts of Indian citizens, using the Pegasus suite of spyware, whether any Pegasus suite was acquired by the Union of India, or any state government, or any central or state agency for use against the citizens of India. The expert panel also has to submit recommendations to ensure prevention of invasion of citizens’ right to privacy.