New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed all proceedings of the two-member Inquiry Commission headed by the former-top court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, which was appointed by the West Bengal government, to inquire into the Pegasus controversy. The top court has also issued notice to the Commission regarding the matter. Earlier, the West Bengal government had assured the top court that the Commission won’t go ahead with an inquiry.
A bench of CJI NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli expressed strong reservations against the Lokur Commission proceeding ahead with inquiry despite an undertaking given by senior advocate AM SInghvi, appearing for the WB government, on August 25 that he will convey the apex Court’s reservations against the Commission going ahead with the inquiry.
On Friday, the bench asked Singhvi – “What is this? You had given an undertaking that the Commission will not proceed during the pendency of the matter before us. Now the commission is proceeding ahead.”
Singhvi said as a state government it could not interfere with the functioning of the commission of inquiry though he had conveyed the restraint that needed to be exercised, as desired by the SC. After the SC passed orders on October 27 (when it appointed a technical expert panel headed by Justice Raveendran), the commission started its work, he said.
Appearing for petitioner NGO ‘Global Village Foundation Charitable Trust’, senior advocates Harish salve, Mahesh Jethmalani and Ravi Sharma said that the Commission secretary should be made a party to the proceedings and the SC should seek response from it as to why it decided to proceed ahead with the task when the SC is awaiting report from the expert panel headed by a retired SC judge.
The top court agreed, issued notice to the Commission secretary and stayed further proceedings before it. The NGO had questioned the jurisdiction of a state appointed commission to inquire into a pan-India issue.
During the pendency of a bunch of petitions seeking SC-judge monitored SIT probe into the Pegasus controversy before the apex court, the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to set up Lokur Inquiry Commission on Pegasus issue was challenged before the court by an NGO ‘Global Village Foundation Charitable Trust, which termed the state’s decision beyond jurisdiction and encroaching on Centre’s domain.
On August 25, the CJI-led bench suggested to the state not to proceed with the inquiry and said, “When we are hearing the issue, we expect some restraint.” Appearing for the NGO, senior advocate Harish Salve had said that there could not be two parallel inquiries and requested the court to restrain the commission from proceeding further.
Appearing for the state, senior advocate AM Singhvi had opposed the PIL. But, the bench had said the matter (Lokur Commission) is connected to the issues raised by other petitions and “in all fairness we expect you to wait…we will hear it with the other matters sometime next week, ” the bench said, adding that the issue at hand has pan-India impact.
When Singhvi had said that nothing big was going to happen before the Lokur Commission, the CJI-led bench had shot a warning signal – “You are forcing us to pass an order”. The veiled warning went home as Singhvi had said, “Please say nothing, I will convey it.
The NGO has said the Pegasus controversy has cross-border ramifications with footprints in India, and hence must be dealt with from a national perspective. “Considering the seriousness of the issue and its implications on the citizenry of. the country as well as its cross-border implications, the Pegasus controversy warrants an in-depth investigation. This cannot be carried out in a truncated and unconstitutional manner as is sought to be done by the West Bengal government,” the petitioner had said.
Seeking stay on the proceedings initiated by the Lokur Commission, which has already issued public advertisements in leading newspapers on the scope of the inquiry, the NGO had said the issue needs pan-India investigation which may spill into foreign countries, which a state-level commission cannot undertake.