New Delhi: The woman who levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has raised some “concerns and apprehensions” about the enquiry committee constituted to probe her charges.
A committee comprising Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee was set up on Tuesday to conduct an in-house enquiry into the allegations. No time frame has been set for the committee to conclude its work, though Justice Gogoi retires in October. The woman, a former Supreme Court employee, received a notice requesting her presence before the committee on Friday.
Responding to the notice, the former junior court assistant has said that the Supreme Court’s special hearing on April 20 “damaged her character”, while pointing out that Supreme Court judges and senior law officials have declared her complaint as false without listening to her. The woman, whose name is being withheld, has also objected to Justice Ramana’s inclusion in the enquiry committee, saying his presence may not afford her an “objective and fair hearing” as he had made certain public remarks dismissive of her complaint and “is like family” to the CJI.
Responding to the notice, the woman said that to ensure a “fair and equal hearing”, a special enquiry committee comprising six retired Supreme Court justices needs to be constituted, as she had requested in her affidavit.
She has also pointed out that the Supreme Court’s Vishaka judgment requires an enquiry committee to have a majority of women and the presence of an external woman member.
She notes at the end:
I therefore request your Lordships to please ensure that this Hon’ble Committee also reflect this in its composition and procedure followed by the Committee.
The woman said she was especially aggrieved by the sitting of a special Supreme Court bench convened by CJI Gogoi on April 20, and presided over by himself, which had damaged her character. “Without hearing me, it was said that I have criminal cases against me,” the complainant said. The CJI remarked during the proceedings, “I don’t think that this can be a plot of a junior assistant. There is a bigger plot. They want to deactivate the office of CJI.”
She has pointed out that Justice Arun Mishra commented, “These are all wild and baseless allegations. We are not passing any gag order on the media but we request the media to observe some restraint” and “How can we function if there is no faith in the system.”
Comments made by Justice Sanjeev Khanna, attorney general K.K. Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta were also flagged by the complainant, who said their statements have left her “frightened and helpless”. “… without hearing me, my complaint has been declared to be false by Hon’ble Judges and senior law officers,” she says.
Statements made by finance minister Arun Jaitley in his blog condemning the complainant have also left her “scared and feeling isolated and depressed”, the 35-year-old woman said.
The complainant said that Justice Ramana’s presence in the enquiry committee may not result in a “fair and objective” hearing of her affidavit and evidence because he is “like a family member” to the CJI. She also pointed out that on April 20, the day her affidavit was sent to the Supreme Court judges, Justice Ramana, speaking in Hyderabad, had dismissed her allegations.
Justice Ramana was quoted as saying, “We have seen such attempts in the past and we will see some more in the future… Do not be wary of such criticisms as we have to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.”
The woman has requested that she be informed of the procedure which will be followed by the enquiry committee in advance of the hearing. She wanted to be accompanied by a lawyer and a support person of her choice when she appears before the enquiry committee. “While I am of course capable of presenting my facts and evidence but I do not have any training or practical experience of the and procedure,” she said.
Finally, she requested that the proceedings of the enquiry committee be recorded on video. She wanted a copy of the recording to ensure that “there can be no dispute about what transpired”.
The reply concludes, “For this I request you Lordships will consider the points I have made. I will only be ensured of Justice if I am provided a fair independent impartial and just hearing.”
The complainant’s full response is attached below.
Note: In an earlier version of this story, it was erroneously stated that Justice Indu Malhotra is part of the Justice Bobde panel.