Recent instances of cyber hacking in the Bhima Koregaon case and the Pegasus spyware attack have serious implications for the rule of law and India’s police functioning, said senior retired police officers on August 5, 2021. They demanded the immediate release of the BK-16 arrested, and condemned the Indian government for its failure to investigate these crimes.
Former Punjab DGP Julio Ribeiro, former Haryana DGP Vikash Narain Rai and former Uttar Pradesh IG Police S. R. Darapuri raised concerns about the impact of surveillance and evidence planting, following reports from Boston-based computer forensics firm Arsenal Consulting. The virtual press conference was held on the same day the Supreme Court heard petitions against the government’s refusal to inquire into the use of Pegasus spyware.
Moderated by Delhi University Professor Dr. Apoorvanand, the discussion focused on the three reports by the firm renowned for its expertise in cyber-investigation. It found that the letters used as key evidence against the Bhima Koregaon accused were planted on computers of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling.
The files were never opened or interacted with by the accused. Yet, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) refused to heed these reports and argued that the same should be ignored during the court case filed by Rona Wilson and Dr. Shoma Sen.
According to Ribeiro, such practices “give a very wrong message to police leaders. If 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.” He called the continued jailing of the accused “total injustice” and an abuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Similarly, Rai said that the Maharashtra police should be held accountable for their role. He called the planting of evidence “an outright crime.”
“Anyone, whether police or IB [Intelligence Bureau] planting evidence is a criminal…[in this case] the suspicion becomes stronger because despite media hue and cry, NIA is not clearing it out,” he said.
Moreover, Darapuri said the government has failed to prove due 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,” said Darapuri.
The continued battle of Bhima Koregaon Friends and Family
During the vote of thanks, Bhima Koregaon Friends and Family group member Minal Gadling remembered Father Stan Swamy who died as an accused in the case.
“They planted evidence on my husband’s [Surendra Gadling] computer. They attacked my phone using Pegasus. The Arsenal reports have shown that all the so-called evidence has been planted on the computers of the accused. With all the so-called evidence shown to have been fabricated, there is nothing left in the case. So, who will take responsibility for every additional day that the accused have to spend in jail,” she asked.
It is worth noting that while the incident occurred three years ago in 2018, the accused still haven’t received their day in court. They continue to remain in jail where many like Hany Babu and Sudha Bharadwaj suffer worsening health conditions.
NIA court failed to take humanitarian approach: Bom HC grants temporary bail to Surendra Gadling
Bhima Koregaon case: Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonsalves seek interim bail
Pegasus spyware trotting into ministers’ phones, who is next?
Release remaining Bhima Koregaon accused: CJP writes to Maharashtra CM