Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi today refused to comment on allegations that a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment in 2019 was among those targeted by Israeli Pegasus spyware for potential snooping.
“I will not comment on it,” said Ranjan Gogoi, who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the ruling BJP after he retired as Chief Justice.
Eleven phones connected to the woman were listed for potential surveillance by the spyware available only to governments. This has been revealed by The Wire, Washington Post and other media partners involved in a global investigation.
According to reports released by The Wire so far, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two union ministers, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists were potential targets of snooping, selected by an unidentified Indian agency that is a customer of the Israel-based NSO Group.
NSO says it sells Pegasus spyware only to “vetted governments”, for the purpose of fighting terrorism, and not to private entities.
The Supreme Court employee who accused Justice Gogoi of sexual harassment and victimisation in 2019 was named in yesterday’s reports.
The Wire said three phone numbers belonging to the woman were selected as potential targets for surveillance.
She was reportedly marked as a “person of interest” days after she recorded her allegations in an affidavit on April 20, 2019.
Eight other phone numbers belonging to her husband and two of his brothers were also marked as possible candidates for surveillance.
Justice Gogoi had denied all allegations and dismissed them as “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous.” He had also said the accusations were an attack on the “independence of judiciary” and a “bigger plot” to “deactivate the office of the Chief Justice of India”.
As the Supreme Court investigated her complaint, the woman appeared before a specially constituted in-house committee. The Wire raises the possibility that her phones were compromised and her conversations with her lawyers were tracked.
The woman’s husband and brother-in-law both worked for Delhi Police at the time of her alleged sexual harassment and were suspended in January 2019, soon after her dismissal.
The in-house inquiry cleared Justice Gogoi and a three-judge panel said there was “no substance” to the allegations.