Pegasus attack has serious implications for rule of law, say senior retired police officers

Julio Ribeiro, Vikash Narain Rai, S.R. Darapuri voice concern on the impact of surveillance and planting of evidence

Cyber-hacking revealed in the Bhima Koregaon case by Boston-based computer forensics firm Arsenal Consultancy shows that the Pegasus spyware attack can have serious implications for police functioning and the rule of law, senior retired police officers said.

Julio Ribeiro, former Director General of Police (DGP), Punjab; Vikash Narain Rai, former DGP, Haryana; and S.R. Darapuri, former Inspector General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, addressed an online press conference and raised serious concerns on the impact of surveillance and planting of evidence. They criticised the government’s failure to investigate these crimes, and also called for the release of those arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The speakers remarked that the government’s reaction to the reports by Arsenal Consulting raise several serious questions. In a series of three reports, the firm, renowned for its expertise in cyber-investigation, found that letters used as key evidence against the Bhima Koregaon accused were planted on the computers of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, and in fact these files had never been opened or interacted with by the accused. However, they said, in response to a court case filed by Mr. Wilson and co-accused Shoma Sen, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had simply refused to respond to the reports and was trying to argue that they should be ignored.

Mr. Ribeiro stated that such practices “give a very wrong message to the police leaders. If the political authorities condone it or encourage it, the message reaches those who are interested only in their careers, and not in what they were recruited for — to be a part of the judicial system and to dispense justice”.

Mr. Rai pointed out that the “planting of evidence is an outright crime. Anyone, whether police or Intelligence Bureau, planting evidence is a criminal…[in this case] the suspicion becomes stronger because despite media hue and cry, the NIA is not clearing it out”.

Mr. Darapuri noted, “The government has failed to prove it followed the legal process for using spying software. It is unjustified and illegal. Such illegal spying should be a public outrage and requires an immediate high-level inquiry.”

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