Bengal’s Pegasus probe panel to inquire into interceptions, find out mechanism used to spy

The two-member panel set up by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to probe the allegations of snooping in the state arising out of the Pegasus issue will inquire into incidences of reported interceptions, enquire into the state and non-state actors and look into the mechanism or spyware or malware used.

The panel comprises retired Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur and former Calcutta High Court chief justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya.

After the announcement Monday, the state government published a notification which said, “In exercise of the power conferred by Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (60 of 1952), the Governor is pleased hereby to appoint a Commission of Inquiry consisting of Hon’ble Justice Madan Bhimarao Lokur, retired Judge, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and Hon’ble Justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, retired Chief Justice, Hon’ble High Court at Calcutta (hereinafter referred to as, “the Commission”) to enquire into such incidences.”

The commission will also enquire into whether any software such as Pegasus of NSO Group Technologies located at Herzliya, Israel or any spyware or malware of any other organisation had been used or is currently being used to conduct such interceptions and will enquire into the events leading to the occurrence of the incidences of interception. It will also enquire into the information that has been collected, altered, stored or used and the possession, storage, and further collection and use, of such information pertaining to such Interception in the hands of state actors and non-state actors.

The commission will also investigate into the circumstances including provocations, instigations from any persons/group of persons, if any, leading to the interceptions, enquire into the details of the victims or persons affected, enquire into the role of other authorities or state and non-state actors and if such interceptions are found to be true, it will enquire whether state/non-state actors can, without any express legal provision or judicial oversight, carry out the interception.

If such reported interception is found to be true, the commission will enquire into the reasons or legality and authority or raison d’etre provided by such state or non-state actors.

If interception are found to be true, the commission will find out if the right to privacy of individuals has been affected. It will also examine any other matter or facts relevant to, ancillary or incidental or connected with its subject of inquiry.

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