New Delhi: The expert committee appointed to look into the Pegasus row -- where Israeli spyware was allegedly used to snoop on politicians, journalists, judges and government officials -- has sought more time to complete its investigation. Sources said the panel, headed by Justice (Retd) Raveendran, has already submitted its interim report in the Supreme Court, which is likely consider it on February 23.

The top court had appointed the committee in October last year amid a huge political furore, saying the state will "not get a free pass" every time national security is raised and the court will not remain a "mute spectator".

So far, at least 13 people -- including journalists N Ram, Siddharth Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta -- have deposed before the committee. Sources said the panel has also received around a dozen cell phones for forensic examination, including those belonging to the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Pegasus row erupted last year as a global news consortium reported that the spyware was used by several nations to target activists, journalists and many others in the civil society.

In India, news portal "The Wire" claimed that more than 142 people were targeted.

The alleged list included Congress's Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two serving Union Ministers, an ex-Election Commissioner, two registrars of the Supreme Court, an old number of a former judge, a close aide of a former Attorney General and 40 journalists.

As the spyware manufacturer NSO said it supplies its product only governments and their agencies, the Centre, under intense opposition pressure, said there was no illegal interception.

In October, responding to a clutch of petitions, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a three-member expert committee.

Overruling practically every argument of the Centre, the court said privacy is not the singular concern of journalists or social activists but of every citizen. Surveillance, said the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, "can have chilling effect on the freedom of speech".

Last month, the row started afresh as US daily New York Times reported that Pegasus spyware and a missile system were the "centrepieces" of a roughly $2 billion deal between India and Israel made in 2017, which involved involving weapons and intelligence systems.