Supreme Court sets the tone on citizens’ rights

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Daniel Webster said: “Justice is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament that holds civilized beings and civilized nations together. When the Chief Justice Bench of India passed an order appointing a committee in the Pegasus case, it not only redeemed the image of the Supreme Court, which had taken a hit at the time of the four justices in previous chief, but also served the interest of every Indian. In the past, the government escaped after violating basic citizens’ rights, including the right to life and personal liberty by placing several people in detention under the Pre-trial Detention Act or the draconian UAPA or Sedition Act – in the wake of protests against the repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution, the enactment of the law amending the Citizenship Act and the protests of farmers, citing security state as the reason for their continued incarceration. The Supreme Court at the time, instead of protecting people’s constitutional right to life and personal liberty, turned a blind eye to their plight. He rarely questioned or asked the authorities to document evidence in support of their defense that the detainees posed a danger to national security. If he requested it, the information was given and received in a sealed envelope for the sole use of the court. In this context, the arrival of Judge NV Ramana was like a breath of fresh air. In a previous article (“Rekindling Hope,” IE, July 22, 2021), while praising the Chief Justice for his pro-citizen statements, I wrote that there was hope he would follow the speech. The CJI indeed followed the speech. The order in the Pegasus spyware case testifies to this fact.

Pegasus, as we learned from the media, and now from the Supreme Court order, is software produced by an Israeli tech company, the NSO Group, that could have infiltrated an individual’s digital devices without their knowledge. , and once infiltrated, it can access all the data stored therein and continue to control the device remotely. It was allegedly used against politicians and individuals across the world, including against politicians, journalists and other individuals in India. The issue rocked parliament, but the government was unwilling to share information regarding the software or its use, citing national security as the reason. As a result, the entire monsoon session was washed away. Alleged victims of the software have turned to the Supreme Court and demanded that an independent investigation be set up to examine the various facets of the problem. The government, seized by the Supreme Court, once again raised the national security scarecrow, saying any information it discloses would become a matter of public debate, which could be used by terrorist groups to hamper national security. He blocked all attempts by the court to seek information, even though the court had made it clear that it was not looking for such information that could affect the country’s national security concerns. But the government has not budged. His relentless position left the court with no choice but to rule on whether to blindly accept the government’s refusal to share any information, or to lean in favor of citizens’ right to privacy, a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court chose the latter route. While he by no means shirked the state’s concerns about national security, he was also unwilling to sacrifice the individual’s right to a life of dignity and deprived of the prying eyes of the government. State. The Supreme Court observed that “the state cannot get a pass every time the specter of national security is raised”. He goes on to say that national security “cannot be the scarecrow that the judiciary shuns, just because of its mention. Although this court should be cautious in encroaching on the realm of national security, no omnibus prohibition can be invoked against judicial review ”. These words are music to the ears of all who believe in constitutional values ​​and the rule of law.

It is hoped that the committee appointed by the SC will find out the truth about Pegasus and that the government will cooperate.

The writer is a former Delhi High Court judge


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