Chief Justice of India gets clean chit in sexual harassment case

Wednesday 08th May 2019 07:18 EDT

A three-judge in-house Supreme Court panel headed by Justice S A Bobde dismissed a sacked SC woman employee’s sexual harassment complaint against CJI Ranjan Gogoi finding “no substance” in her allegations. “The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint dated April 19, 2019, of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India,” a statement issued by SC secretary general Sanjeev Kalgaonkar said. The complainant rejected the finding and termed it a “grave injustice to her”.

The panel, comprising Justices Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, submitted its report to Justice Arun Mishra, the third senior most judge in the SC after the CJI. The report was submitted to Justice Mishra as the second most senior judge, Justice N V Ramana, who was initially part of the in-house inquiry panel recused himself after the complainant said he was close to the CJI.

Most judges back CJI, query judge’s letter

Soon after the in-house probe panel dismissed the sexual harassment complaint against the CJI, an overwhelming majority of Supreme Court judges expressed solidarity with Ranjan Gogoi and questioned the propriety of Justice D Y Chandrachud’s letter to the panel suggesting alteration of the inquiry procedure.

SC panel report will not be made public

Justice S A Bobde set up the panel after the CJI assigned him administrative and judicial powers to deal with the inquiry and cases arising from the sexual harassment complaint. In writing its report, the three-judge panel considered a large number of documents - the complainant’s 28-page affidavit sent to all judges on April 19 complaining of alleged sexual harassment on October 11, 2018, by the CJI, her statement recorded before the panel, records of SC inquiry proceedings drawn against the complainant leading to her dismissal in December last year and her resistance to being moved from the CJI’s residence office to the SC.

She was shunted out after the CJI’s secretary complained of her inappropriate behaviour on October 12. The panel had also examined the CJI.

The in-house panel’s report will not be made public. “Please take note that in the case of Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India & Another [2003 (5) SCC 494], it has been held that the report of a committee constituted as a part of the in-house procedure is not liable to be made public,” the statement issued by Kalgaonkar said.

Senior lawyer Indira Jaising termed the decision not to make the inquiry report public “a scandal”. “Indira Jaising vs SC was also a case of sexual harassment by sitting HC judges of Karnataka. It is a pre-RTI case and is bad in law. Demand for disclosure of the findings of the inquiry committee is in public interest,” she said.

Kalgaonkar’s statement also said, “The in-house committee has submitted its report dated May 5, in accordance with the in-house procedure, to the next judge competent to receive the report and also sent a copy to the judge concerned, namely the Chief Justice of India.”

Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan had earlier told the media that he, along with his father Shanti Bhushan and advocates Indira Jaising, Kamini Jaiswal and Vrinda Grover, had helped the dismissed employee file the affidavit levelling sexual harassment charges against the CJI.

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