Last month, the West Bengal government established the Justice Lokur and Justice Bhattacharya Commission to inquire into the Pegasus surveillance of prominent figures in India. West Bengal’s Pegasus Inquiry Commission has now issued a public notice asking for information from the public. The Commission will use the information containing evidence for its investigation into the purported use of the Pegasus spyware and related matters.
According to the public announcement, the West Bengal government established the Pegasus Inquiry Commission on July 26, 2021, under Section 3 (1) and (2) of the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952. The Commission must give a report to the West Bengal government on its findings within six months or more.
Numerous mainstream English and regional language media carried the announcement, requesting that statements within 30 days (September 2, 2021).
“Notice is hereby given that all individuals, group of persons, associations, institutions and organisations acquainted with or having knowledge directly or indirectly, of the facts and circumstances relating to the matters referred to the Commission in its Terms and Reference and having interest in the proceedings before the Commission, may furnish their statement relating and relevant to the aforementioned matter to the Commission personally or through registered speed post or courier or electronic mail.”
Requirements for making submissions
Any person who is willing to depose before the commission must submit a statement along with an affidavit supporting the contents of the statement. The person must issue the affidavit before a “Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate 1st class or a Commissioner of Oath or any other person authorized by law to administer oaths.”
The person shall also declare the source of information, including the name and contact of the person/organization where the information is coming from. If the statement refers to a number of documents, then the statement must accompany original documents with an index of documents. In absence of original documents, the person shall provide details of the organization from which the commission can gather original documents.
Non-English speaking persons can submit their statements in the local language, but with an English translation signed by an advocate or magistrate.
Terms of Reference
The notice enlists several terms of reference. They are the specific objectives of the investigation.
- Was there any interception: To enquire into whether any incidences of reported interception have occurred.
- Who was involved : To enquire into the state and non-state actors who were involved in such reported interception.
- How was it done : To enquire into the mechanism and/or spyware and/or malware that were being used to effectuate such reported interception.
- Was Pegasus used: To enquire into whether any software such as Pegasus of NSO Group Technologies located at Herzliya, Israel, and/or any spyware and/or malware of any other organisation had been in use and/or currently being used to conduct such reported interception.
- What information was acquired : To enquire into the events leading to the occurrence of the incidences of interception, and 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.
- To investigate into the circumstances including provocations, instigations from any persons/group of persons, if any, leading to the reported interception.
- Who was surveilled : To enquire into the details of the victims and/or persons affected.
- Ministries, Departments, Organisations involved : To enquire into the role of other authorities and/or State and/or non- State actors in such interception.
Lastly, the commission will enquire if state/ non-state actors can carry out interception without any legal/ statutory backing or any judicial oversight, and if such interception infringes the right to privacy of the affected individuals.
Those who are willing to share information can send an email [email protected] . The mailing address is: Justice Lokur and Justice Bhattacharya Commission of Inquiry, located at NKDA Building at 001, Major Arterial Road, New Town, Kolkata-700156