CJI gets clean chit in sexual harassment charges

CJI gets clean chit in sexual harassment charges

Justice Ranjan Gogoi (PTI File Photo)

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has got a clean chit from a three-judge inquiry panel which found “no substance” in a complaint of sexual harassment made by a former woman employee of the Supreme Court.

The in-house inquiry panel headed by senior most judge, Justice S A Bobde and comprising two woman judges Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, submitted its report to the next senior judge. 

In this case, it would be Justice Arun Mishra, as Justice N V Ramana, who is the next senior judge after Justice Bobde in overall seniority, has recused from the inquiry panel in view of apprehension of bias expressed by the complainant, due to his proximity with the CJI.

The report of the Committee would also be sent to the judge concerned, CJI.

The sensational allegations by the ex-employee against the CJI had first surfaced in the media on April 20 after some news portal published her affidavit sent to SC judges.

Reacting to the development, the 35-year-old ex-staff said, she was "just highly disappointed and dejected" and felt that "gross injustice has been done to her as a woman citizen of India".

"Today, my worst fears have come true, and all hope of justice and redress from the highest court of the land have been shattered," she said. 

In a two-paragraph communication issued on Monday, Secretary-General informed that the in-house committee has submitted its report on May 5.

“The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint dated April 19,” it said.

The Secretary-General also informed that the report of the committee, constituted as part of the procedure “is not liable to be made public” as held in the case of 'Indira Jaising vs Supreme of India and Another' (2003).

The top court's two judge bench had then declined to entertain a petition by Jaising wherein she sought a "direction for the publication of the inquiry report made by a committee consisting of two chief justices and a judge of different High Courts in respect of certain allegations of alleged involvement of sitting judges of the High Court of Karnataka in certain incidents".

Senior advocate Jaising termed the non-disclosure of panel report as "scandal". She said the 2003 matter was also a case of sexual harassment by a sitting High Court of Karnataka. 

"It is a pre RTI case and is bad in law. Demand the disclosure of the findings of the enquiry committee in public interest," she tweeted. 

On April 30, the complainant had refused to participate in the inquiry committee, questioning the very procedure adopted by it. She said she has not been allowed to represent herself through a counsel, advocate Vrinda Grover and there has not been any video and audio recording of the proceedings. She also claimed the committee did not follow the Vishakha guidelines by allowing external members.

Justice D Y Chandrachud, who is to assume office as CJI in 2022, was learnt to have a written a letter to the committee to allow her a counsel as per request or appoint an amicus curiae, otherwise it may hurt the Supreme Court's name.

The panel, however, has decided to proceed ex-parte and "without taking any input from any other judge".

The CJI Ranjan Gogoi had met the committee on May 1 and refuted all the charges.

Separately, former SC judge Justice A K Patnaik was also appointed on the judicial side by a three-judge bench to inquire into "conspiracy aspect" on the basis of an affidavit submitted by an advocate, Utsav Singh Bains.