New Delhi: On Tuesday, the woman who accused Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment sought a copy of the report of the in-house inquiry committee, which said it found ‘no substance’ in her complaint.
The three-member committee headed by Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Indira Banerjee on Sunday submitted the report, while the apex court released a statement on Monday saying it found “no substance” in the allegations of the former Supreme Court employee. The court also said the report was not “liable to be made public”.
In a letter to Justice Bobde, the woman said the committee’s proceedings lacked transparency. She wanted a copy of the report to be submitted to her. If her request is not followed, it “would be a violation of the principles of natural justice and a complete travesty of justice”, she said.
The 35-year-old Dalit woman said that during the first hearing, she was not given any clarity on whether the nature of the proceedings.
“However, the in-house proceeding rules are now being used to deny me and the public a right to the report. The Secretary General’s press note states that a copy of the report will not be made public… It appears from the press release that even I, the complainant, will not to be provided with a copy of the report,” she said.
I have a right to the report, the reasons for the same as well as copies of the depositions of any witnesses, any other persons or any other evidence considered by the Committee.
The former junior staffer argued that if the CJI was being given a copy of the report, directly or indirectly, the complainant was also entitled to it.
“I find it rather strange that the complainant in a case of sexual harassment is not to be provided with a copy of the report which finds her complaint to be without substance and that my complaint has been held by the committee to be this without giving me any reasons for the same,” she said, adding that both the parties had a right to receive a copy of the report.
“I am shocked that despite my detailed affidavit, ample corroborative evidence and clear, consistent statement before the Committee reiterating my experience of sexual harassment and consequent victimisation the Committee has found ‘no substance’ in my complaint and affidavit.
“I am shocked that Committee has come to an adverse finding against me despite the fact that I was compelled to withdraw from the Committee since the committee did not observe even the most basic principles of natural justice,” she said in a statement.
The complainant accused the committee of not being transparent, adding “a great prejudice was being caused to her repeatedly”.
While the Supreme Court cited a 2003 judgment to keep the report under wraps, the complainant said the order was issued before the Right to Information Act was legislated. Indira Jaising, who was a party to the case in which the 2003 verdict was given, also said issued a similar statement.
This is a scandal
Indira Jaising v Supreme Court of India 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 https://t.co/Saw07mBPhV
— indira jaising (@IJaising) May 6, 2019
“Even according to the full bench judgment of the Delhi high court in the Assets disclosure case, such a report should be accessible to any citizen under the RTI. The full bench had held that even assets of judges would be accessible under RTI to any citizen.
“In these circumstances I request you to kindly provide me with a copy of the report since I have a right to know how, why and on what basis have your Lordships found my complaint to have ‘no substance’,” the statement said.
The three-member committee completed its task in 14 days. From May 1, it proceeded ex-parte, as the woman opted to withdraw from the proceeding on April 30 after deposing before it thrice. She said the committee lacked sensitivity and intimidated her.
The committee recorded the statement of CJI Ranjan Gogoi on May 1.
The Wire was among the four news organisations that broke the allegations on April 20. The woman also sent an affidavit to all the 22 judges of the apex court, detailing her version of the story with supporting evidence.
Within hours of the allegation, the Supreme Court held an unprecedented hearing by a bench comprising the CJI himself and Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna. The CJI claimed that the allegations were part of a “bigger plot” to “deactivate” him.
The Supreme Court has ordered an enquiry headed by Justice (Retired) A.K. Patnaik to look into allegations of “conspiracy” raised by advocate Utsav Bains. His story has been questioned by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan.
The woman’s full statement has been reproduced below.
Letter to Justice Bobde Scribd