Pegasus: Phone number of ex-judge, SC officials on spyware list
An old phone number of former Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra and the numbers of two officers of the Supreme Court registry are on the list that featured potential targets for surveillance using the Pegasus spyware, The Wire news portal reported on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear several petitions seeking directives to the Narendra Modi government to clear the air on the Pegasus controversy.
Other new names disclosed by the portal include that of a lawyer for Christian Michel, the British “middleman” extradited to India in 2018 in the Agusta Westland helicopter deal case. The Centre had hoped to use Michel’s testimony to implicate the Nehru-Gandhi family in the scam.
The numbers of a lawyer for Nirav Modi and an aide to former attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi also figure on the leaked list of potential targets.
The Wire report on Wednesday evening said: “The presence on the list of a number associated with a sitting judge was mentioned…. Having now spoken to him on the record, we can confirm that a Rajasthan mobile number formerly registered in the name of Justice Arun Mishra, who retired from the Supreme Court in September 2020, was added to the database in 2019.”
A source told the portal that the number was registered in the name of Justice Mishra from September 18, 2010, to September 19, 2018. Justice Mishra had heard several important cases and played a key role in the apex court’s handling of the sexual harassment case against then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in April 2019.
Justice Mishra, now chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, told the portal that the number “is not with me since 2013-2014. I don’t use this number”.
“He subsequently noted that he had ‘surrendered the number on April 21, 2014’. Why this number was added to the database in 2019 by an India-based Pegasus operator is not clear,” The Wire said.
The presence of the numbers of the officers of the Supreme Court registry is also significant. “It is the registry which helps determine when, where — and even if — new cases, especially ‘sensitive’ ones, move, or languish,” the portal said.
N.K. Gandhi and T.I. Rajput both worked in the crucial “writ” section of the Supreme Court’s registry when their numbers were added. More than 1,000 writ petitions are filed directly in the apex court in any given year, and these are of direct concern to the Union government. Some of them are considered politically sensitive.
Earlier, in 2019, two junior court employees had been dismissed from service by then Chief Justice Gogoi “for tampering with an order” in a contempt of court case against Anil Ambani of the Reliance ADAG Group but, according to The Wire, there is nothing to suggest that the inclusion of Gandhi and Rajput in the list had anything to do with the Ambani case.