The Supreme Court staffer who had accused ex-Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment was a potential target for surveillance according to the latest tranche of reports under the Pegasus Project. The Wire, which is part of the media consortium reporting on the Pegasus Project, reported that three mobile numbers allegedly belonging to the staffer was added to the list days after she recorded her allegations in a sworn affidavit on April 20, 2019.
The news portal further states that in all 11 numbers linked to her and her family members were potential targets for surveillance after allegations against then CJI Gogoi surfaced in April 2019.
However, The Wire has not been able to independently confirm whether the staffer's phone or that of her family members was compromised or infected with the Pegasus spyware without conducting a forensic analysis. The Wire also reached out to the staffer, but she refused to comment.
The staffer's name has been withheld in accordance with laws on reporting sexual harassment.
The April 2019 incident
In April 2019, an SC staffer alleged that she was sexually harassed by Gogoi, who was the Chief Justice at the time, while she was posted at his residence. The staffer had written to all the sitting judges of the Supreme Court and had sought an inquiry in the matter.
Barely hours after the letter was made public on April 20, 2019—a Saturday—CJI Gogoi called for an emergency hearing. Presiding over the bench, CJI Gogoi had refuted allegations made against him and claimed there was a great threat to the independence of the judiciary. Days later, an in-house committee was constituted presided by then Justice SA Bobde, who would have succeeded Gogoi as the Chief Justice.
The staffer was dismissed from service in December 2018 weeks after she allegedly rebuffed CJI Gogoi's advance. Incidentally, the staffer was reinstated during CJI Bobde's tenure.
The committee, led by Justice Bobde, had initially comprised Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. However, Justice Ramana recused himself after the staffer expressed her apprehension at receiving an "objective and fair hearing" because of his proximity to CJI Gogoi. Justice Indu Malhotra replaced him as the third member of the committee.
On April 30, the staffer said she was compelled to walk out of the hearings since she was "not likely to get justice from this committee". On May 6, three weeks after the allegations surfaced, the Justice Bobde committee cleared CJI Gogoi.
The panel, in its report, said there was "no substance" in the allegations.