Monday, 24 January, 2022
HomeJudiciaryPIL in Bombay HC claims govt official visited Israel in 2019 to...

PIL in Bombay HC claims govt official visited Israel in 2019 to acquire Pegasus-like spyware

The Bombay HC issued a notice to Maharashtra govt over the PIL that alleges there was a nexus between phone tapping cases and the Israel tour by state govt officials in 2019.

Text Size:

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Maharashtra government on a PIL questioning a 2019 visit to Israel by officials of the state Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR), with the petitioners’ lawyer claiming that it was for acquiring a “spying software like Pegasus”.

The petition filed by Laxman Bura and Digamber said that there was apparently “a nexus between the phone tapping cases, which are a matter of public knowledge now, and the Israel tour”.

Several rules regarding the sanctioning of such foreign tours were violated in the process, the Public Interest Litigation alleged.

“Israel doesn’t have any specific expertise on web media (the subject of the study tour) that the state government officials could have benefited from,” said their lawyer, advocate Tejesh Dande, in the court. “They (petitioners) say the actual object of sending team to Israel was to acquire a spying software like Pegasus,” he added.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni directed the state government, DGIPR and five officials, all of whom have been made party to the PIL, to file their replies, if any, within four weeks.

On November 15, 2019, after the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, a delegation of five “chosen” senior officials of the DGIPR was sent to Israel for ten days to study “advance web media,” the PIL said.

Hectic parleys for government formation were going on in the state during this period.

The tour was undertaken without taking mandatory permissions from the chief minister, Union government or the Election Commission of India, and violated a host of rules for such tours set out in a state Government Resolution of 2014, the PIL alleged.

The PIL sought, among other things, a judicial inquiry into the tour.

“The country of Israel has an expertise in the technology of agriculture. On the contrary, the subject of the study tour was enhancement of usage of web media. It is in this backdrop that the acceptance and sanctioning of the said tour creates a reasonable suspicion on the purpose and motivation behind it,” the PIL said.

As much as Rs 14 lakh were spent on the tour from the state exchequer, it claimed.

Further, replies to queries under the Right To Information said even though the proposal for the tour had been drafted hurriedly and violated several rules, it was nevertheless approved by the government, the petition said.

The HC asked the petitioner’s lawyer if the Supreme Court was adjudicating upon a similar issue. Advocate Dande said the issues in a petition related to the Pegasus row before the apex court were different.

The bench then issued notices and asked the respondents to “file affidavits in reply, if any, within four weeks.”


Also read: Bombay HC reserves order on Raj Kundra’s petition challenging arrest in porn films case


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular

×