Phone numbers of two registrars of the Supreme Court, an old number of a former judge and a close aide of a former Attorney General were on the list of potential targets for surveillance by Israeli spyware Pegasus, news portal "The Wire" reported today. The numbers were among the 300 Indian numbers that are on the alleged lists that are being investigated by a global consortium of 17 media organisations.
The spyware vendor NSO has said its clients are only vetted governments -- a statement that has raised a storm of protests from the opposition and paralysed parliament since the beginning of the Monsoon Session.
The government has said no illegal surveillance has been conducted -- which the opposition has interpreted as an admission of possession and use of the spyware.
Today, The Wire reported that the names of the two court officials -- NK Gandhi and TI Rajput -- were added in early 2019.
"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," The Wire reported.
Am old number of Justice Arun Mishra, who retired last year from the Supreme Court, was added in 2019, the report said. While Justice Mishra said he stopped using the phone in 2014, the number was registered in his name till 2018, The Wire reported.
Another number on the list belonged to M Thangathurai, a junior lawyer working in the chambers of Mukul Rohatgi.
The number was added in 2019 -- two years after Mr Rohatgi left office as the Attorney General.
In this period, he continued to represent the "establishment" in certain key cases "but had also begun taking a position independent of the government on some issues," the Wire reported.
According to reports by "The Wire", Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two serving Union Ministers, an ex-Election Commissioner and 40 journalists were among names in an alleged list of potential targets. More than 142 people in India were on the alleged list.
The closest advisers of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, were on the list. So were former chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation Alok Verma, who was fired in 2018 after a clash with the government, and his junior officer and the current Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
Forensic analysis of some of the cellphones by the Security Lab of Amnesty International confirmed security breach, media houses involved in the investigation have said.