Woman who accused former CJI Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, her family targeted with Pegasus

The Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in April 2019, is among the names revealed today as potential targets of Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’ in the latest set of explosive revelations by The Wire.

Three phone numbers belonging to the female staffer were selected as potential targets for surveillance by the Israeli company’s government clients.

The global collaborative investigative project has revealed that Pegasus spyware targeted over 300 mobile phone numbers in India including that of two serving Ministers in the Narendra Modi government, three Opposition leaders, one constitutional authority, 40 journalists, rights activists, lawyers and business persons.

As per the report, the staffer involved in the case where Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment was fired in 2018 after she refused the judge’s advances. A few days after her recording of allegations in a sworn testimonial on April 20, 2019, she was marked as a person of interest, an analysis of a leaked list of phone numbers accessed by French media non-profit Forbidden Stories showed.

These records also showed that during the week of her allegations against the former CJI coming to light, eight other phone numbers belonging to her husband and two of his brothers were also marked as possible candidates for surveillance.

In total, about 11 numbers associated with the complainant and her family were selected. This makes them the largest cluster of associated phone numbers in India.

The Wire report states: “Her presence in the list, and the timing of her selection, suggest that the reason she and her family became persons of interest is because she went public with serious allegations against the sitting chief justice of India. Her selection also underlines the point privacy advocates have been making for some time: that the use of highly intrusive and illegal means of surveillance has become routine in situations for which there is not even a remote ‘public emergency’ or ‘national security’ alibi.”

The Pegasus Project is a ground-breaking collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organisations in 10 countries including Indian website The Wire coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media non-profit, with the technical support of Amnesty International, who conducted cutting- edge forensic tests on mobile phones to identify traces of the spyware.

Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to the investigation.