Law

Activists, Academics Demand Independent Probe Into Allegations Against CJI Gogoi

"This is a moment of grave crisis for the judiciary," their statement notes. "If the Court is unable to credibly deal with this challenge, public confidence in the judiciary will be severely eroded."

New Delhi: Several social activists and academics came together to issue a statement on Monday demanding an independent probe into the sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

“This is a moment of grave crisis for the judiciary,” the statement notes. “If the Court is unable to credibly deal with this challenge, public confidence in the judiciary will be severely eroded.”

Slamming the CJI’s handling of the allegations – which include the alleged victimisation of the complainant, a woman employee of the Supreme Court – the statement noted that “The charges are prima facie serious enough to warrant an independent inquiry by a high-level independent committee.”

The Wire has reported on the matter – and the fact that the former apex court employee had in an affidavit dated April 19 revealed the apparent victimisation she, her husband and their family have undergone over the past few months. The victimisation, she claims, began after she spurned what she claimed were inappropriate advances of the CJI last October.

Also read | Skewed Corridors of Justice: Women Continue to Face Sexism in Courts

The affidavit was sent to 22 judges of the Supreme Court.

In an emergency hearing on Saturday, the chief justice himself presided over the matter. Refuting the allegations, CJI Gogoi said that there was a “bigger plot” to deactivate the office of CJI.

Endorsed by 33 activists, writers and academics including Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Kamla Bhasin, Bezwada Wilson, Anjali Bhardwaj, Yogendra Yadav, and Harsh Mander and Amnesty India Executive director Aakar Patel, the statement says:

“The act of the Chief Justice of India to constitute a special bench headed by himself to hear this issue on the judicial side, rather than constituting a credible and independent inquiry committee, goes against all just and settled principles of law.”

During the hearing, the signatories note, the chief justice and senior-most law officers of the government levied “one-sided allegations.”

“This is unbecoming of a judicial proceeding, especially one where the complainant in a sexual harassment case is absent and is permitted to be openly vilified in court. These actions augur a dark day in the history of the Supreme Court and have, undoubtedly, cast a shadow on the credibility of the Chief Justice and the judiciary.”

Full text of the statement is reproduced below.

§

Statement seeking independent inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment and victimisation against the Chief Justice of India

We are extremely concerned to note the complaint of sexual harassment and victimisation made by a woman employee of the Supreme Court against the Chief Justice of India. The charges are prima facie serious enough to warrant an independent inquiry by a high level independent committee.

The complaint also alleges arbitrary actions taken against the complainant, resulting in unprecedented victimisation that she and her family have been put through and continue to suffer after she rejected the alleged sexual advances. These include, the unjust termination of the services of the complainant, the suspension from service of her husband and two brothers-in-law, and her arrest on an apparently motivated FIR.

The act of the Chief Justice of India to constitute a special bench headed by himself to hear this issue on the judicial side, rather than constituting a credible and independent inquiry committee, goes against all just and settled principles of law. In the hearing, one-sided allegations were made by the Chief Justice and senior most law officers of the government. This is unbecoming of a judicial proceeding, especially one where the complainant in a sexual harassment case is absent and is permitted to be openly vilified in court. These actions augur a dark day in the history of the Supreme Court and have, undoubtedly, cast a shadow on the credibility of the Chief Justice and the judiciary.

We, therefore, call upon all the judges of the Supreme Court to ensure that an independent and credible inquiry committee comprising senior retired judges and eminent members of civil society, headed by a woman, is immediately set up to inquire into this complaint.

It is imperative that the complainant be granted protection, so that her safety and security is ensured. In the meantime, since many of the witnesses named by the complainant are officials of the Supreme Court registry, it is incumbent on the Chief Justice to refrain from exercising any administrative powers during the course of the inquiry, since it would not be reasonable to expect officials under his direct administrative control to depose fearlessly.

This is a moment of grave crisis for the judiciary. If the Court is unable to credibly deal with this challenge, public confidence in the judiciary will be severely eroded.

Endorsed by:

Medha Patkar
Arundhati Roy
Aruna Roy
Kamla Bhasin
Bezwada Wilson
Yogendra Yadav
Kalpana Kannabiran
Harsh Mander
Syeda Hameed
P. Sainath
Kavita Kuruganti
Dipa Sinha
Annie Raja
Anjali Bhardwaj
Nikhil Dey
Prabhat Patnaik
Aakar Patel
Shabnam Hashmi
Kamal Jaswal
Amitabh Behar
Paul Divakar
Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere
Kavita Srivastava
Arundhati Dhuru
Vipul Mudgal
Amrita Johri
Meera Sanghamitra
Abha Bhaiya
Himshi Singh
Basant Hetamsaria
Suhas Kolhekar
Annie Namala
Uma