March 24, 2023

7 Elgar accused’s phones to be given to SC Pegasus panel | India News – Times of India

MUMBAI: A special NIA court on Tuesday allowed an application filed by National Investigation Agency to permit it to hand over cell phones of seven accused in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case to the Supreme Court-appointed panel, which is looking into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using Pegasus spyware. The seven accused — Rona Wilson, Hany Babu, P Varavara Rao, Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj and Verson Gonsalves — had sought that the committee call for an inspection of their devices.
The SC order to set up an independent expert panel was to examine allegations made in a petition that the government used the Israeli spyware for surveillance on its citizens. The defence advocates including Yug Chaudhry and R Sathyanarayan on Tuesday gave their no-objection to the devices being sent. The accused said they suspected their devices were infected with a spyware.
The NIA had on Saturday submitted its application stating that the SC had constituted a technical committee by its order of October 27, 2021. The committee comprises professors Naveen Chaudhary, P Prabhakaran and Aswhin Gumaste, overseen by Justice RV Raveendran, ex-SC judge. “The committee had requested the NIA director general on January 31, 2022 to arrange for mobile instruments of the seven accused as it was informed to the committee that their phones have been allegedly infected by Pegasus spyware,” said the application.
The accused had made a representation before the committee that they wanted to send their devices to be examined and cited reasons why they suspect them to be infected. Wilson, who had sought an independent report from a US cyber forensic analyst, Arsenal Consulting, on a cloned copy of his laptop, had cited the 2021 report which said his device was infected with malware, allegedly two years before his arrest on June 6, 2018, in a quashing petition before Bombay HC. Later, another report he received claimed his phone was found with “Pegasus indicators” on two iTunes backups.
The NIA said during probe by Pune police, which registered the FIR in January 2018, and later by it when it took over the probe early in 2020, phones were seized from the accused and deposited with the chargesheet in court except for the phones of Sudha Bharadwaj and Vernon Gonsalves, which are still pending with the Forensic Science Laboratory, Kalina, and presently in custody of the ‘court malkhana.’
Since the technical committee is enquiring, probing and determining about the use of the malware, the panel wants to inspect and make digital copies of the phones. Such copy will be made in the presence of officers and such digital copy will also be furnished to advocates of persons in custody.

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