New Delhi: The woman Supreme Court employee who had accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment during his tenure has finally been reinstated, a year after her sacking. The question now arises whether the man who sacked her – Gogoi’s old associate and apex court registrar Surya Pratap Singh – will be taken to task under any legal procedure.
In December 2018, Surya Pratap Singh, better known as S.P. Singh, had conducted the controversial ‘disciplinary inquiry’ to dismiss the employee, a junior court assistant (JCA), weeks after she alleged she had rebuffed physical advances from Justice Gogoi.
The Wire had previously detailed Justice Gogoi’s association with Singh. He was Gogoi’s principal secretary when the latter was chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court. Singh was also under the scanner following a complaint in the same high court against two subordinate judges.
In a new development, the Punjab and Haryana high court has confirmed that this “serious” complaint has been “filed” but is yet to be investigated. “It is hereby intimated that the complaint dated November 25, 2017 made by Sh Karan Batra, against two judicial officers, has been filed by this court and no inquiry has been conducted in the matter,” stated the high court’s joint registrar and public information officer Satish Kumar in a reply that was sought under the Right to Information Act.
Singh was appointed the apex court’s registrar in August 2018, two months before Gogoi’s elevation as the chief justice of India, despite his name being mentioned in the pending complaint at the high court.
The complaint pertains to when Singh was a Sonepat district sessions judge. He had transferred the hearing of a bail plea in an abetment to suicide case from one additional sessions judge to another, which in turn led the complainant to suspect that there was foul play involved in the accused being granted bail. The complaint was filed by the victim’s son, Karan Batra.
Singh was instrumental in the woman JCA’s undue dismissal. He issued an ex parte dismissal order on December 21, 2018.
The woman had fainted outside Singh’s office on December 17, 2018. After this, the registrar did not bother to wait for her recovery (she was in the hospital) and four days letter issued a dismissal order.
The woman and her family were subsequently subjected to an apparent vendetta, with her husband allegedly being manhandled while in illegal custody at the Tilak Marg police station.
The trivial administrative charges levelled against the JCA included: “[she showed] reluctance and questioned the decision of senior officers” when she was asked to change her seat; she tried to “bring influence” from “unacceptable quarters” to exert pressure on her supervisors not to change her seat; and she “unauthorisedly absented herself from duty” and showed “insubordination, indiscipline and lack of devotion of duty”.
The Wire, before publishing the article on Singh’s close association with Gogoi and his role in dismissing the woman employee, had sent him a brief questionnaire. Till date, he has not responded. The queries were:
1. Why didn’t you give the JCA in question enough time to recover so that she could be heard in person, face to face, after she fainted outside your office room on December 17?
2. Since you have been the CJI’s principal secretary in the Punjab and Haryana high court (when he was chief justice there) in the past, why didn’t you recuse yourself from the inquiry that led to the dismissal of the JCA on December 21 last (2018)?
Singh continues in his post as a registrar of the apex court.
Prabhjit Singh is a freelance journalist with extensive experience covering Punjab and Haryana.