Allegations on CJI: Justice Ramana opts out of panel

N V Ramana

Justice N V Ramana, the second senior most judge, has recused from a three-judge in-house inquiry panel set up to probe the sexual harassment charges levelled by an ex-woman employee against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

His place will be taken by Justice Indu Malhotra, another woman judge, who has been nominated to the committee headed by Justice S A Bobde.

Opting out of the committee, Justice Ramana rejected as “baseless and unfounded aspersions” his capacity to “render impartial judgment in this matter” since the woman alleged that he was a close friend and like a family member to the CJI.

In response to a notice issued by the panel headed by senior most judge Justice Bobde, the 35-year-old woman had contended that besides being close to the CJI, Justice Ramana had already spoken his mind in Hyderabad on Saturday on her complaint. The panel has sought her appearance on April 26.

The woman said the committee should have an external woman member as per Vishakha guidelines and the 2013 law relating to Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment.

In his letter, Justice Ramana also termed her apprehension as “misconceived”, saying, “We, the judges of Supreme Court, regularly meet each other, including socially, and also the Chief Justice of India. In fact, we call ourselves a “family” to encapsulate that fraternity and collegiality.”

He said his decision to recuse was only based on an intent to avoid any suspicion that this institution will not conduct itself in keeping with the highest standards of judicial propriety and wisdom.

“It is the extraordinary nature of the complaint, and the evolving circumstances and discourse that underlie my decision to recuse and not the grounds cited by the complainant per se. Let my recusal be a clear message to the nation that there should be no fears about probity in our institution, and that we will not refrain from going to any extent to protect the trust reposed in us. That is, after all, our final source of moral strength,” he said.

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