Setback for Modi as SC Forms Committee to Probe Pegasus; NPR Retains Problematic Questions

Anita Anand is Canada defence minister, Adanis disturbing prehistoric site in Australia, SC seeks SIT report on Gujarat riots, income support reduces Covid spread, copy-paste now a competitive sport

A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal

Snapshot of the day
October 27, 2021

Pratik Kanjilal

The Supreme Court has ordered the formation of an independent committee of three technical members to run a thorough probe into the use of Pegasus spyware against Indian citizens. Their exertions will be supervised by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice R.V. Raveendran. The Modi government, which is accused of subjecting opposition leaders, journalists, human rights defenders and others to highly intrusive – and illegal – surveillance, has so far stymied all discussion on the subject. But the court is suspicious of the bogey of national security raised by the government and now wants the new committee to look into allegations of Pegasus use. 

The retired judge will be assisted by a former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, Alok Joshi, who left the organisation at the end of 2014, at least three years before the government is believed to have acquired the spyware from Israel.

The terms of reference of the committee are broad and include all the questions the government doggedly refused to answer in an affidavit despite being pressed by the Supreme Court to do so: Has the government acquired Pegasus? Has it used it to target Indian citizens? etc. A positive answer to these questions will put the Prime Minister and his colleagues in an awkward political and even legal position.

Slate has analysed reports on Facebook leaks to find that “the most shocking revelations concern the nation that serves as the app’s biggest user base: India, the world’s largest backsliding democracy.” comes to the same conclusion. The dominant political party’s messaging of hate is amplified, with grave consequences. By the weekend, the Modi government is likely to come out with a standard operating procedure for the implementation of Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code. The SOP may spell out the jurisdiction of agencies, their power to issue takedown notices, and liabilities for executives, such as the nodal contact officer.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an Adani project is causing annoyance. A ‘traditional owner’ has made “an urgent bid to stop Adani from disturbing a significant cultural heritage site containing the highest concentration of artefacts uncovered at Queensland’s Carmichael mine to date.”

The Supreme Court wants to peruse the closure report of the special investigation team (SIT) absolving 64 people in the 2002 Gujarat riots case, including then chief minister Narendra Modi, and the justification for accepting it. Zakia Ehsan Jafri, widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, had pleaded for a probe into the larger conspiracy and administrative lapses. The petition is pending since 2018. The SIT found no prosecutable evidence against Modi and others in government, and the Gujarat High Court had accepted its closure report.

Hindutva mobs are attacking Muslim neighbourhoods and mosques in Tripura. Two Circles reports that at least 10 mosques were damaged and 20 people injured. Matrilineal Meghalaya’s men will be able to inherit land. Among the Khasis, the lion’s share of parental property traditionally went to the youngest daughter. Under a new law, property will be equally shared.

Indian-origin Canadian politician Anita Anand was appointed her country’s Defence Minister in a cabinet reshuffle. Anand, 54, who was Canada’s vaccine minister, replaces long-serving defence minister Harjit Sajjan, whose handling of sexual misconduct in the forces has been criticised. Sajjan will be Minister of the International Development Agency.

The bitter face-off between MP Subhash Chandra and Invesco features allegations by the tycoon that the US fund has a “certain larger design” to take over his media empire, reports Bloomberg.

Two days after victory against India in Dubai, Pakistan is still feeling the high, reports the New York Times. “The children couldn’t stop talking about the game and kept praising Pakistani players,” an Islamabad teacher said. “Some of my students said they couldn’t sleep for happiness.” Pakistan yesterday defeated New Zealand. Over here, Saqib Mugloo writes about being a Kashmiri spectator of India-Pakistan cricket clashes.

A valuation of the new IPL teams pushed up the market cap of Chennai Super Kings, the only sports team whose shares are available to the public, to over Rs 7,200 crore, surpassing its parent India Cements. For the IPL revenue model from the perspective of a franchisee, see this thread.

Dabur has withdrawn its Karva Chauth ad depicting a lesbian couple, and has issued an unconditional apology, after facing an online backlash from Hindutva supporters and a BJP politician.

A retired Army officer is outflanked by Modi’s Digital India. And copy-pasting becomes a competitive sport: 

It’s been 22 days since he was arrested and Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan, has yet to make bail. The Bombay High Court was still hearing the matter today by the time The India Cable was released but Livelaw will have the latest.

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