In the recent developments of the Pegasus Snooping scandal, phone numbers belonging to the law representatives of high-profile clients have been revealed to be part of the target list. The Wire on Wednesday reported that the mobile numbers of advocates of fugitive Nirav Modi and Augusta Westland accused Christian Michel were potential Pegasus spyware targets.
Vijay Aggarwal, Nirav Modi’s counsel was added to the database after he agreed to represent the fugitive in early 2018. His wife’s number was included as well. Neither of the phones underwent forensic examination as they were unavailable. Nirav Modi is accused of a Rs 13,500 crore bank fraud in Punjab National Bank. He fled the country when the scam came to light. The Indian Government awaits his extradition back to the country.
Aljo K Joseph who was added to the list in 2019 represents Christian Michel. Michel is a British national who is related to the Agusta Westland VVIP helicopter deal. He has been held in India since 2018 after his extradition from the United Arab Emirates.
“The use of such technology shows that democratic principles are being compromised and that India’s democracy is not safe in their hands,” said Joseph to The Wire when he was made aware of the incident.
Among the dozens of lawyers whose names have been part of the list is also the name of a former attorney general’s assistant, M. Thangathurai. Thangathurai is a junior lawyer working under attorney general Mukul Rohatgi. Thangathurai says his number was often mentioned under his boss’ name so he could attend to the calls and queries that come into the office. His number was added in 2019, two years after Rohtagi resigned from the post of AG. Both of them were surprised on being informed that their names were included, reports The Wire.
The contacts of N.K. Gandhi and T.I. Rajput who worked in the ‘writ’ section of the Supreme Court’s registry were also part of the target list, although the reason their numbers were added remains unclear. Their phones could not be examined as the mobiles used by them in 2019 isn’t currently available.
With the incidents coming to light, the functioning of the Court and the Judiciary as an organization independent of the executive remains questionable.