Meet members of Supreme Court-appointed panel to probe Pegasus snooping allegations

The Supreme Court on Wednesday formed an independent committee of technical experts to probe the Pegasus surveillance issue , saying that th...

The Supreme Court on Wednesday formed an independent committee of technical experts to probe the Pegasus surveillance issue, saying that the Centre did not even attempt to justify its stand on the matter.

The apex court asked the committee to examine the allegations thoroughly and place the report before court. It posted the hearing after eight weeks.

The court has constituted a three-member panel, who will work under the supervision of former SC judge R V Raveendran and will comprise of Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Prabaharan P and Ashwin Anil Gumaste.

Who makes the panel?

Former SC judge R V Raveendran

The former apex court is a highly-respected member of the community. He served as a judge in the Supreme Court from 9 September 2005 and retired on 15 October 2011.

As a SC judge, he delivered judgments in important cases, such as those on the OBC reservation and even the 1993 Bombay bombings.

He also, after retirement, was part of the RM Lodha Committee, which was set up in 2015 to reform the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

In 2017, the apex court asked Justice Raveendran to supervise the NIA investigation into allegations of Kerala resident Hadiya's forceful conversion to Islam and marriage to a Muslim, reported The Print. Justice Raveendran, however, is reported to have said no to the request a few days later.

Dr Naveen Kumar Chaudhary

He currently serves as the Dean of National Forensic Sciences University in Gandhinagar.

Dr Chaudhary is considered an expert in cyber security and has published more than 27 papers and articles in journals, magazines and newsletters.

According to Indian Express, he is also a member of the University Grants Commission panel on developing an ecosystem for cyber security in higher education institutions in India.

Prof Chaudhary received the Chairman Chief of Staff Committee Commendation award for drafting a visionary document on space technology capacity building in 2015.

As per the website of the National Forensic Sciences University, Professor Chaudhary has 23 years of teaching experience.

Prabaharan P

Dr Prabharan P is a professor at Kerala’s Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham School of Engineering and specialises in cybersecurity.

In 2018, he was awarded the DRDO Academy Excellence Award by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Dr Prabharan P has 20 years of experience in computer science and security areas and has been published in multiple reputed journals. “His areas of interest are malware detection, critical infrastructural security, complex binary analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the SC bench said.

Dr Ashwin Anil Gumaste

Gumaste is Institute Chair Associate Professor (Computer Science and Engineering), Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

The top court explaining his inclusion in the panel said, "He has been granted 20 US patents and has published over 150 papers and authored 3 books in his field. He has received several National Awards including the Vikram Sarabhai Research Award (2012) and Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology (2018). He has also held the position of Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA."

Optical networks, broadband communication, end-to-end networks are some of the areas he specialises in.

Dr Gumaste played a critical role in the development of carrier ethernet switch routers.

What will the panel do?

As per the Supreme Court, the panel has been formed to "probe the falsity and to discover the truth in Pegasus row... Violation of a citizen's Right to Privacy is a serious matter and it needs to be examined".

The bench also observed that there has been “no specific denial” by the Centre (about the use of Pegasus software to snoop on private citizens). “Thus we have no option but to accept the submissions of petitioner prima facie and thus we appoint an expert committee whose function will be overseen by the Supreme Court," the top court ordered.

The court's adverse observation came after the Centre repeatedly refused to file a detailed affidavit on the petitioners' query maintaining that it was not a matter for public discussion and will not be in the "larger national interest".

With inputs from agencies

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