A ex-Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in 2019 was selected as a potential target of surveillance using the Pegasus hacking software, The Wire reported on Monday.
The woman, who worked as a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court, had alleged that Gogoi made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and October 11, 2018. She had submitted an affidavit to 22 judges of the Supreme Court on April 19, 2019, and called for an inquiry against Gogoi.
Gogoi had denied the allegations during a special hearing he called on April 20, 2019. The ex-chief justice had said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations but claimed they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”.
The woman was marked as a person of interest just days after she sent the affidavit, according to an analysis of a leaked database that reportedly reflects potential targets of illegal cyber surveillance.
The database, featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens”, was accessed by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organisation, and Amnesty International. They shared it with 17 news organisations, including The Wire, as part of the Pegasus Project.
According to The Wire, a total of 11 phone numbers belonging to the complainant and her family were selected by an unidentified official of the Indian agency, which is a client of NSO Group, an Israeli firm which has developed the Pegasus hacking software.
Three numbers belonged to the woman. The Wire reported that two of them were selected days after her complaint and the third was chosen after a nearly a week.
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However, The Wire was not able to forensically examine any of the phones linked to the woman and therefore could not establish if she was targeted by Pegasus.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw, Prahlad Singh Patel and virologist Gagandeep Kang were among the other big names revealed on Monday as potential targets of surveillance using the Pegasus hacking software.
On Sunday, The Wire revealed the names of dozens of journalists and activists on the database, including its own founder-editors Siddharth Vardarajan and MK Venu, The Hindu’s Vijaita Singh, the Hindustan Times’ Shishir Gupta, as well as scholars and activists on the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners and relatives, lawyers and friends of those arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case and the accused themselves.