Process Due

Judge Bobde said I could get my job back, I said, “No Lordship, I just need justice”: CJI complainant

09 May 2019
The complainant and her family at the residence of Ranjan Gogoi, the chief justice of India, in October 2018.
The complainant and her family at the residence of Ranjan Gogoi, the chief justice of India, in October 2018.

On 20 April, The Caravan reported along with Scroll, The Wire and The Leaflet, that a former Supreme Court employee had accused the chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, of sexual harassment and persecution. The previous day, the former employee had sent copies of a sworn affidavit to the residences of 22 Supreme Court judges. In it, she described two incidents of molestation by Gogoi, both of which allegedly took place at the chief justice’s residence, in October 2018. After she refused his alleged sexual advances, the former employee wrote in the affidavit, she and her family faced “consistent persecution,” including the loss of their jobs and subsequently, arrest and torture in police custody. “I have been victimised for resisting and refusing the unwanted sexual advances of the CJI and my entire family has also been victimised and harassed due to that,” she wrote.

Within hours of the news breaking, Gogoi called a special hearing of the apex court, presided over by the judges Sanjeev Khanna and Arun Mishra, on a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary.” During the hearing, the CJI alleged that there was a “larger conspiracy” to undermine the Supreme Court. Alluding to the allegations, he said that “things have gone too far” and that he “should not stoop low even in denying it.”

Three days later, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member committee, comprising the judges SA Bobde, NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee, to conduct an in-house inquiry into the allegations in the former employee’s affidavit. Two days later, after the former employee raised objections that Ramana was considered to be close to Gogoi, the judge recused himself. Indu Malhotra, another sitting Supreme Court judge, was appointed to the committee in his stead. The next day and then again on 29 April, the former complainant appeared before the committee for the first time.

On 30 April, the complainant issued a press statement announcing her withdrawal from the in-house inquiry proceedings. She was doing so, she wrote, as she was not permitted to have her lawyer with her during the proceedings; as there was no audio or video recording of the proceedings; and because she was not informed about the procedure governing the proceedings. “I felt I was not likely to get justice from this committee and so I am no longer participating,” she wrote.

The judges continued without her. On 6 May, in less than two weeks after the inquiry began, a notice uploaded to the Supreme Court’s website declared that the “In-House Committee has found no substance in the allegations” of the former employee. The notice further stated that the committee’s report “is not liable to be made public.” That day, the former employee released a stirring public statement. Noting that the committee had even denied her a copy of the report, thereby withholding its findings from her, she wrote, “Today, my worst fears have come true, and all hope of justice and redress from the committee have been shattered.”

Nikita Saxena is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Atul Dev is a staff writer at The Caravan. He can be reached at atul.caravan@gmail.com.

Keywords: Ranjan Gogoi Chief Justice of India sexual harassment gender Supreme Court of India workplace sexual harassment
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