Women

Interview | 'I Have Lost Everything': Woman Who Alleged Sexual Harassment by CJI Gogoi 

Days after the Supreme Court’s in-house inquiry committee exonerated the CJI of all allegations, the former junior court employee, in her first media interaction, said she is “completely disheartened and shocked” at the lack of interest the judges in the committee showed towards probing the truth of her affidavit.    

New Delhi: Ever since the Supreme Court’s enquiry committee probing allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi found “no substance” in the accusations, the 35-year-old complainant, a former court employee, feels scared and dejected.

She can’t fathom why the three senior judges chose to not share the committee’s final report with her although it gave a copy of it to the CJI, who is an accused in the matter.

She says that since her affidavit was very detailed and was backed by verifiable evidence, she had hoped that she would not be denied justice so casually. She doesn’t know why the “in-house procedure” presided over by three senior judges – Justices S.A. Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra – did not follow the guidelines of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

She had withdrawn from the committee’s proceedings during her third hearing on April 30 after she felt that the committee’s opinion and questions leaned towards protecting the CJI. All her requests to the committee – be it having her deposition video-recorded or her request to have someone assist her – were denied.

She has no idea whether the committee interrogated the people she mentioned in her affidavit – those who, she thinks, could have corroborated her allegations.

In a joint interaction with The Wire, The Caravan and Scroll, the former court employee spoke about how her life has changed ever since she fell out of the CJI’s good books.

She says she was forced to take on the highest seat of the judiciary as she was left with no other option. She felt that if she is put behind bars in a false case, her daughter would be deprived of her care.

Since she went public against the CJI, she claims, she is being intimidated both directly and indirectly. She also says that living under constant duress has had a severe impact on her health as well as on the well-being of her family.

She met reporters from the three publications on the afternoon of May 7, after she sent out a letter to the committee requesting a copy of the final report.

Excerpts:

The morning the news regarding your allegations of sexual harassment broke, Justice Gogoi formed a bench and said this was a conspiracy to ‘deactivate’ his office. What was your initial reaction?

I know I am not part of any kind of conspiracy. Whatever I said in my affidavit, I provided evidence for it.

He has criticised my character saying I am from a criminal background. A case that was resolved in 2016, they are trying to make that the basis [for questioning my character].

Once it was clear that there was nothing in those cases, other insinuations came up, as if I might have some kind of connection with Anil Ambani.

I don’t know where these things are coming from. I had no idea when I filed the affidavit that these sorts of stories would come up.

When you filed the affidavit, what were you hoping the response would be?

I thought unko sacchai toh dikhegi [I thought that they would see the truth], because anybody who reads that affidavit will come to know exactly what has happened to me and my family. I was thinking I would get some justice. But today you can see what was the result. This committee is saying there is no substance in my affidavit, even though I have provided sufficient evidence.

Can you tell us about the Justice S.A. Bobde committee?

Since the day I received the notice, I had been requesting them [the three judges on the committee] to allow me to bring along a support person to the proceedings; to allow video recording and conduct the proceedings under the guidelines for sexual harassment cases or the Vishaka Guidelines. They did not even follow that. They only considered my one request related to Justice Ramana. Because I know he is very familiar with Justice Gogoi. He used to visit Justice Gogoi frequently. So, they considered that. [After the complainant wrote to the committee regarding Justice Ramana, he recused himself from the proceedings. Justice Indu Malhotra was appointed in his place.]

I told them I cannot hear with my right ear, sometimes I cannot hear from my left ear either. During the proceedings, they would ask me, “Do you understand?” I would say, “Lordship, can you please repeat?” You know, it scared me. How many times can I ask them to repeat? That was one of the reasons I was asking for a support person. But they did not allow that.

Also read: Why Is Nobody Allowed to Question the Inquiry Into Allegations Against CJI Gogoi?

[When I arrived for the proceedings,] three or four police women searched and treated me as if I was a terrorist. They examined everything, made me open my hair, clothes, checked them in a rough manner. I was literally crying there, and shouting. Then Vrinda [Grover] ma’am came. After that was I taken in.

On the very first day, they [the judges] said, “We are not here as a sexual harassment committee, it is not a departmental proceeding and it is not even an in-house proceeding. We are here just to work on your complaint.” It was very informal, you can say.

My demand has been the same from the beginning, that someone help me get justice for all that has happened to me.

They told me, “We can assure you no harm will come to you in your future.” Justice Bobde also said, “You know, you will get your job back.” To which I said, “No Lordship, I don’t want my job back. I just need justice. I’m not doing all this to get my job back. The victimisation after that incident, it should be stopped.”

I told them, “Lordships, I will start from my joining the Supreme Court,” and I explained each and everything about Justice Gogoi. First day was like that. I just explained everything.

They told me, “You are not supposed to speak to the media. You should know what kind of people they are, the media people.” They said, “You should not talk to lawyers either.” In fact, I was told I should not even speak with Vrinda ma’am regarding this.

After that, I was called on April 29.

Who told you to not speak to the lawyers?

Justice Indu Malhotra.

Why did she say this?

I don’t know. They said something like, advocates aise hi hote hain [advocates are like that]. It was all very informal the first day. It didn’t seem like they were actually going to look into the matter and they were just trying to set it aside, so that something happens somewhere, that the matter comes to an end. 

When you told them you don’t want your job back, that you want justice, what was their response?

I don’t remember exactly but I said something like, “I don’t want my job back, I want the harassment I have been facing for six or seven months to be stopped.” He [Justice Bobde] said, “It will stop, this we can assure you.”

Why did you think the committee’s proceedings were informal?

Because they were saying it is not an in-house proceeding, not a departmental inquiry, it is not a sexual-harassment committee. So, I thought, what is it then?

Who said it was not an in-house committee?

Justice Bobde. He said, “It is not an in-house committee. It is not even a sexual-harassment committee. We are just here to work on your complaint.”

There was one more thing. Once I left the Supreme Court guest house where the proceedings were being conducted, my husband and I were chased by unknown people on a bike. Even on 26th, even on 29th, and 30th [April], I did not realise as it was early in the morning. And it was really scary for me. I filed a complaint against those unknown people at the Tughlaq Road police station. For that Justice Bobde said: “You have a large family and everybody is in police in your family. They should know how to protect you.”

Also read: Justice Is Dead, Long Live the Justices

Did the other judges say anything when Justice Bobde said your family members should be able to protect you?

No, they did not say anything. Justice Malhotra asked me why I reached home late. I went home at around midnight. I explained that I waited for those people on the motorbike [who were following the complainant] to leave. That is when Justice Bobde made that comment.

Were you disappointed by Justice Bobde’s response?

Yes. I said, “Your Lordship, though everybody in my family is in police, it is still the Delhi Police who have been harassing me and my family. That too at someone else’s directions.”

Did he respond to that?

No.

In a letter that you wrote to the committee after the first day of the proceedings, you stated that you found the atmosphere intimidating.

The first day they said, “We are not a sexual-harassment committee.” But the second day, after reading my letter, their behaviour changed completely. They became very strict, very particular about the questions, about my affidavit. So, I started with that. They started asking how did it happen, what was the timing. But they were very particular about one question: why had I filed the complaint at this particular time, after such a long gap? I replied. But they did not actually consider my reply. “Aise nahi hota, waise nahi hota (That is not how it happens)”, they said. Again, I sent them a letter that I be allowed to bring along a support person. Because I was not sure what was going to be recorded.

Can you describe the behaviour of the three judges?

Most questions were asked by Justice Bobde. Justice Indu Malhotra also. But Justice Indira Banerjee was not participating that much.

Did you feel comfortable with them?

The first day I was a bit [more] comfortable because they were trying to make me calm. They were trying to make me understand that what I’ve filed, it should not be the way it is. They were saying: “Oh, you filed it [the complaint against Justice Gogoi] after meeting Prashant Bhushan sir, after meeting Vrinda Grover, so they must have made the suggestion to file all these things.” That is not correct at all. The things that have happened with me – I realised that I had no choice but to spell out the truth. I realised my silence would not work anymore.

Was there a person recording the proceedings?

One person was sitting and typing. It was not a stenographer. I was explaining each and everything, but after I finished speaking, it was Justice Bobde who was dictating what I was saying to the typist.

Sometimes it happens that you don’t understand the legal language. So this was another reason why I wanted to have somebody in that room with me.

A view of Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

Were there any other questions they pressed you on?

They were very interested in knowing who had recorded the video of the SHO. [Referring to Naresh Solanki, who was then posted at Tilak Marg police station. The complainant wrote in her affidavit that in January, Solanki accompanied her to the CJI’s residence, where she was asked to apologise to Justice Gogoi’s wife.] It was me who was recording the video, just to be on the safer side, because there were so many things which had happened with me, and I could not take risks anymore.

Also read: A Multi-Layered Indian Judicial Crisis

Another question was: “Who has the call recording of H.K. Juneja, you or your husband? Is it on your phone or his phone?” These were the kind of questions they were asking. [According to the complainant’s affidavit, after she was dismissed from the Supreme Court, and her husband and brother-in-law were suspended from Delhi Police, her husband made a call to the CJI’s private secretary, H.K. Juneja, requesting a meeting with Justice Gogoi].

Were there any questions that caused you unease?

They asked, “Why didn’t you file the appeal against your dismissal?” I said I did not want to come back to this institution. Then again he [Justice Bobde] asked, “No no, still you should have filed this appeal against your dismissal.” I said, “Lordship, I thought this appeal, if it goes to the CJI, definitely will be dismissed.”

When you told the judges about the sexual harassment you faced on October 10 and 11, what was their response?

They were just listening to me. They asked only one or two questions such as “what was the time.” I told them it was between 8:30 and 9 am. “Then after that what happened?”

They asked one question, “What was the colour of the dress that you were wearing on 10 [October]?” So I told them that it was orange and a green-coloured dupatta. One more question was related to [whether during an exchange described in the affidavit, the CJI offered her] a sweet or prasad. Those were the questions they asked.

When you spoke about your dismissal and your husband’s…

They referred to my affidavit.

They did not ask more questions about it?

They asked two-three questions only.

How long did the questioning take?

First day, they called me at around 12:30 pm. They finished at around 4 pm. The second day it was from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

In your April 30 letter to the judges, which you made public, you noted that while the media sent questions to the CJI, it was the secretary general who gave a response on behalf of the court. Another concern was that the CJI held a bench hearing and offered his defence. When you spoke about these things, what did the panel say?

They did not reply. They were just listening to me. They were not responding.

Did you express your anguish to the committee about what Justice Gogoi did in the hearing on April 20?

Yes, I told them.

Did they ask you about the incident in January when you met Justice Gogoi’s wife?

No, they did not.

Did you try to bring it up? You went through the entire chain of incidents up until the filing of the affidavit with them?

I told them that on January 11, my husband and I were called by the SHO of the Tilak Marg police station. He changed into civilian clothes and took me there [Justice Gogoi’s residence] in his white Swift car. Mr Deepak Jain [the Supreme Court registrar] was already present there. He [SHO] coordinated with that person [Jain] only about how to reach there. Mrs Gogoi was present. She asked me to rub my nose on her feet and…

Did the judges ask you any questions when you told them about this?

No, they did not ask questions.

Was there any difference between the two women judges on the committee and Justice Bobde?

Justice Indira Banerjee was neutral, she was not participating that much. Justice Indu ma’am was asking a few questions based on the questions of Justice Bobde. He talked about the termination of employment of my brother-in-law [who is disabled, and was employed by Justice Gogoi at the Supreme Court under the CJI’s discretionary quota] and she [Justice Malhotra] explained that maybe it was because of his unsatisfactory service, as he was on probation.

Also read: In Photos | Women Protest Supreme Court Panel’s Clean Chit to CJI Ranjan Gogoi

On the last day, when I wanted to withdraw from all the proceedings, she [Justice Malhotra] asked why and said, “You are doing well.” I told her, “Sometimes I am not able to understand the question, sometimes I am not able to listen to what the lordships are saying.” She said, “No, you are answering very properly, you know each and everything, you are very much aware of the facts of your affidavit, you’re doing well, so why do you want to withdraw?” I just kept repeating that I wanted a support person.

Did Justice Bobde or Justice Banerjee have any response when you said you wanted to withdraw from the committee?

Justice Bobde was quiet for some time. He wrote something on a paper and gave it to Justice Indu ma’am. She read it and Justice Bobde went out. Then Justice Indu ma’am started asking me why I wanted to withdraw. I told Justice Malhotra that this is a case against the CJI. He is the most powerful person.

When did Justice Bobde come back?

After five minutes. He said he was going to the washroom.

After that, did he say anything?

He said, “We are giving you five minutes to think about it. Otherwise, we will conduct the proceedings ex parte.” I said OK. Because I knew I would not get justice from the way they were conducting the proceedings, the way they were asking questions. They were stuck on one question: why had I filed the complaint so late. I had given them a satisfactory reply, still they were asking the same question and saying that is not how it’s done, that is not how it’s done.

Women protest against the clean chit given to CJI Ranjan Gogoi. Credit: The Wire

Did you just walk out or did you leave the meeting after a questioning session?

No, I handed over all the documents to them. Because on the second day of the hearing, they had asked me to bring the settlement deed of the 2016 case, the bail-cancellation application and other documents like the termination order of my brother-in-law, which I had already given.

I handed those over. After that, I told their Lordships that I had only one request. I have written this letter. So, they read the letter. They said we will not allow you, as per the rules of in-house procedure, a support person during the hearing. I said, “Lordships, in that case, I will not be able to continue with these proceedings.”

Then they said they cannot allow me a lawyer. [That is when] Justice Bobde wrote something on a paper and went out.

You agreed to their statement that the inquiry will be ex parte?

They said they would not allow me to have a lawyer, they would not allow all that I had asked for in my letter. So I said I will withdraw and they said we’ll declare it ex parte. I said OK. It is there in my [April 30] letter.

Do you know whether they questioned anyone else for the inquiry?

I have no idea. I walked out. After that, I don’t know who they called or not. They just called the CJI. That I came to know from the newspapers.

In their report, the committee said they didn’t find any substance in your allegations. How did you feel when you learnt this?

I was completely disheartened. Shocked. I have lost my job, I have lost everything. My family members have lost their jobs. So I felt it was a great injustice to me and my family. We were all shocked to learn that they just said there is “no substance.”

What about my other submissions? They have not given the findings. I am not even sure if they have examined the SHO or considered that video or cross-examined people whom I have talked about in my affidavit. I’m not sure.

Until they give the reasons, how can I proceed further? See, I have presented my case before everybody, before every judge of the Supreme Court. Now it is their turn. I have the right to get the report.

Have you asked them for a copy of the report?

I have written a letter [on May 7] saying I am entitled to get the report.

You talked about the manner in which the police women treated you when you were entering the Supreme Court guesthouse for the hearing. Could you tell us more about it?

It was very frightening. The first day was horrible. It reminded me of what had happened to me in the Tilak Marg police station and in Tihar Jail [when she was arrested in March 2019 for allegations of taking bribes]. So, I started crying. In fact, most of the police personnel were from Tilak Marg police station only.

Also read: On Allegations Against CJI Gogoi, There Are Many Questions the SC Needs to Answer

You approached the Supreme Court judges hoping they would act on your complaint. What do you make of their responses so far?

Justice [DY] Chandrachud is reported to have said that I should be permitted to take my lawyer when I go before the inquiry committee. Unke alawa, mujhe aur kisi ke baare mein kuch nahin pata. [Apart from him, I do not know anything about anyone else.]

How do you feel about the response from the rest of the judiciary?

Of course, there is disappointment. All this is happening to my family – and then I was an employee of the Supreme Court.

Did you feel any respite once you spoke to the committee of the sitting judges?

No, I did not feel any sense of relief.

It happened the way it did at my departmental inquiry: on the first day [in the departmental inquiry,] I was given nice treatment, the second day I was clearly told ki mere haath mein toh kuch nahi hai, sab upar se aayega. [That nothing is in my hands, all directions will come from above].

And you felt the sexual harassment committee proceeded in the same manner?

Yes. The first day, I was given so many options – this can happen, that can happen. The second day, it was like, “We haven’t said this thing, you have misunderstood us.” They did not follow any norms such as the Vishakha Guidelines, or the sexual-harassment law. They made it clear they won’t allow any lawyer. I really wanted to have somebody with me, that was the reason I walked out.

Did any of your former colleagues reach out to you after the complaint was reported in the media?

No. They couldn’t have dared. After seeing me, in fact, nobody would come forward.

B.A. Rao, the president of Supreme Court employees welfare association, with whom you had discussed the matter of your frequent transfers in the court, was one of the first persons to issue a statement backing Justice Gogoi. Did he speak to you?

Yes, I know. I have blocked his number.

The Supreme Court formed one committee to look into your allegations and another, under the retired judge A.K. Patnaik, to probe an alleged conspiracy against Justice Gogoi. There has been some talk of court officers Tapan Chakraborty and Manav Sharma, who were arrested for tampering with the orders in Ericsson’s contempt plea against industrialist Anil Ambani. Have you met either of the two?

I knew Mr Tapan Chakraborty since he came to Justice Gogoi’s court when Asha Soni was one of the court masters. Somebody died in her family and Mr Tapan Chakraborty came to that court. That is how I know him. I did not have any direct interaction with him.

You have not had any direct interaction with either of them?

I don’t know Manav Sharma. I have not seen him by face.

In an FIR against you dated March 3, 2019, one Naveen Kumar has claimed that he met you with Mansa Ram and you took a bribe to give him a job. Have you ever met Naveen Kumar or Mansa Ram?

No, I did not even know who Naveen was or who Mansa Ram was. In fact, when this Tilak Marg police station team came to Rajasthan [in March 2019, to arrest her for the case], they asked me the same question: “Do you know any Mansa Ram, do you know any Naveen Kumar?” I said I didn’t. I have no idea who they are. I never met them.

Before this, you wanted to work in the judiciary. Do you still have faith in the process?

No, I don’t think so. After this report of the inquiry committee, nobody will have any faith, in fact.

Today, I can’t trust anybody. Everyone is going against me despite the fact that all that I have said is the truth. Mere saath sab kuch galat hua hai. Police ne galat kiya hai. [I have been wronged. The police have done wrong.] So, I do not have any faith.

How has your life been since you filed your affidavit?

Very scary and threatening. Unknown people are going to my relatives’ houses. Two people went to my sister’s house. She lives in a very small town in Uttar Pradesh. They introduced themselves as lawyers. And they told my brother-in-law that I have been involved in some cases. They said I would be murdered.

My brother-in-law called my brother, who informed me that this was happening.

Has there been any other such threat to any other family member?

Some people also went to my in-laws’ home in Rajasthan and enquired about us.

Who?

I don’t know. They were all unknown people.

You are referring to the house from where the Delhi Police had detained you in March?

Yes, they went to that place. They also spoke to the sarpanch of the village. They enquired about us.

You spoke about a motorcycle following you even when you went for hearings before the inquiry committee. Could you tell us what happened?

The first day we left the Supreme Court guest house (where the hearings were held), I was with my husband and his friend. He said some people are chasing us. My husband stopped his car twice. On both occasions, those people stopped their bike at a distance. The bike was Army green in colour. There were two people. They were following us.

Also read: Even Judges Are Mortals When it Comes to Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

It was the same bike on both days?

No, different bikes. There were more people on the second day. When we stopped the second time to confirm whether they were following us, they also stopped. So, we realised they were following us. Actually, I was going to visit my doctor. So my husband asked [his friend] to take the car and go, while he would take me to the doctor. But woh us waqt bhi humein chase kar rahe the. [They were still chasing us]. So at that time, my husband managed to partially note down the number.

Your husband’s friend left in his car and then you and your husband left separately.

Yes, we took an auto.

Did they chase the auto too?

They were chasing the car because they thought we were still in it.

The second day there were so many people. When they saw me coming out of the proceedings, I heard one of them say, “Oye jaldi aa, jaldi aa.” [Oye, come fast!].

Everyone is going against me despite the fact that all that I have said is the truth.

I informed ma’am [referring to Vrinda Grover’s junior], who was with me. I told her that someone was following us. There were three-four people on different bikes. So, she approached the police team [at the guest house]. They suggested we go to Tughlaq Road police station and give a written complaint there. We went there and filed a complaint. By the time we got there, Vrinda ma’am also reached. The SHO told us, “You are already protected. What type of protection do you need now?”

That is when they stopped following us. They might have got scared because we went to the police station.

So, these men on the bikes were inside the Supreme Court guest house premises?

No, they were outside. The other side of the road.

Have you sensed any threats near your home?

No. But when we come out of our home, we feel somebody is chasing us. My mother-in-law is a heart patient. After all that has happened, she doesn’t let me go out without any reason. I only go out of our home with my husband.

You told the committee that as a woman from a Scheduled Caste community, you had to struggle a lot to reach where you have professionally. Can you tell us about that?

When people get to know your caste, they start keeping a distance and stop giving you preference. Unless you are extraordinary in your work, you will not achieve something in your life easily. I have always put my caste identity aside, thinking I would do things like a “normal person.”

I was getting no education from private schools, so had to go to government schools – it is that, you have to go where your category is. Sometimes you have to hide it. They will start behaving differently the moment they come to know you belong to this category.

People normally don’t see you in an equal way. Our society is like that. In fact, the 2016 case I was involved in was under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes [Prevention of] Atrocities Act. The lady had abused me in a casteist manner. [Justice Gogoi had cited this case during the special bench hearing held after the stories of the allegations against him broke on April 20, as proof of the complainant’s criminal background] 

What did she say?

It is written in the case files. She said people from our caste can only do cleaning work.

Did Justice Gogoi know about your social background?

He used to ask me about each and everything.

So he knew?

He knew. He used to inquire about my family background. One day he was asking me why I was pursuing law. I was thinking of appearing for judicial exams. There was something said about the age group, then he asked, “Do you have some sort of reservation?” That day I disclosed to him that I belong to this caste.

You wrote in your affidavit that when you were taken to apologise to Justice Gogoi’s wife, she told you, “Naak ragado aur jaao (Rub your nose and go)”. You have said that Naresh Solanki, the former SHO of the Tilak Marg police station, took you there, and that the Supreme Court registrar Deepak Jain was also present. Could you talk about that exchange?  

Solanki had instructed me that once I get there [the CJI’s house], I would not say a word except sorry. “You can’t ask any questions,” he said. Because I wanted to ask why I was there when so many wrongs things were happening with me.

The manner in which I was supposed to say sorry, it wasn’t clear. In fact, even he might not have known something like that was going to happen.

There, Mrs Gogoi said to me, “Naak ragado aur jaao”. [Rub your nose and go.”]

Once the video – in which Solanki is speaking to you after the apology to Mrs Gogoi – became public, did he try to get in touch with you?

In fact, after the video came out, nothing really happened. When proceedings for bail were ongoing, we had contacted him, asking, “Sir, you had said after this [the apology to Mrs Gogoi] nothing will happen.”

He said, I have been transferred from there. So, I can’t do anything.”

Through all this, have you had the support of your family?

It is only because of my family that I am still alive. Otherwise, I would have died, given all that has happened to me. In fact, my mother-in-law, who is 70-years-old, was the only person looking after my daughter while I was in police custody.

What does being able to work mean to you? Why was it important to you? 

I was a sportsperson, I used to play basketball, compete in swimming. Whatever I used to get to do, I would give it my 100%. At Justice Gogoi’s residence too whatever work he would give me, I used to give it my 100%. Sometimes he used to say, “You know, there is a lot of work which my law clerks are not able to do, but you are doing that for me.”

What prompted you to join the judiciary?

When I was in the private sector, my daughter was just six-months-old. She was not keeping well. My husband said, “It is only a private job, leave it and look after your daughter.” I was not able to manage my personal life and professional life at that time. An advertisement [for a post in the Supreme Court] came. My husband said, “If you want to apply for a government job, do that.” For this one exam, the main subjects were English, Hindi and nothing was difficult. That’s how I applied and got the job.

You also joined a law school soon after you were employed at the Supreme Court and pursued a degree in law. What led to that?

I was thinking that since I was in the Supreme Court, I should learn a few things related to law. People in [the Supreme Court] library were doing law and I took inspiration from them. I just thought I should pursue it because learning is always good, be it at any age. So, I enrolled myself in the university in 2015.

So, at that time you were hopeful about pursuing a long-term career in law.

Naturally. I got involved in that kind of work when Justice Gogoi started giving me papers, books, briefs. I thought I was so privileged to get an opportunity to work with a judge like Justice Gogoi and learn all these things.

You wrote in your affidavit that it was when the police filed an application to cancel your bail, in relation to the case of alleged bribery that was filed by Naveen Kumar, that you decided to submit the affidavit. When did you decide to speak out?

See, I am the mother of a girl child and he has decided to put me behind bars. Who will look after her? I know they [the police] were given directions, that must have happened given how I was arrested, harassed. Nothing was going to stop them. If they put me in jail again … So, that day I thought given everything that was happening anyway, why not speak the truth? I discussed it with my husband and we decided to meet sir and ma’am [the lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Vrinda Grover.]

Whom did you approach first?

Prashant sir.

And how did you come in contact with Prashant Bhushan and Vrinda Grover?

I knew Prashant sir. I had seen him in the Supreme Court. I met him and I narrated [the whole story], he listened to me. He asked me some questions, like cross questions. Then he looked at my documents also. Then he said there is Vrinda Grover who deals with a lot of such cases. He suggested I contact her. Vrinda ma’am verified each and everything, checked my documents, asked me how it all happened. And after that they gave me some moral support. They said, “We will stand with you.” Until then, we had nobody with us.

You can understand what we were going through.

Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Vrinda Grover. Credit: PTI

Once you had decided you wanted to take action, how did you figure out that you would submit an affidavit? When was it that you decided to do this?

I had no idea about how to proceed. I only knew I had my truth to tell. How to go about it, what kind of procedure should be followed, for all that we took the help of sir [Prashant Bhushan] and others.

In the affidavit, you have mentioned that you were illegally detained at the Tilak Marg police station throughout the night of March 10, 2019. What was the effect that night at the police station had on you?

That was a very horrible night.

It was at around 2 in the night that I was arrested by SHO Devendra Kumar of Tilak Marg station. He himself came to arrest me along with his team and he hit my thigh with his leg and used abusive language, “I will skin you. What is it you used to go and do in the judge’s cabin?” He also tied my legs to a bench. (Breaks into tears.)

I used to feel proud whenever I spotted a policeman. Today, I feel these people are not as upright as I thought they were.

You had to go through dismissal from the court, you have lost your hearing since then, you have also mentioned that you have been suffering from depression.

My life has completely changed, you can say. If I compare my life from before October to what it is today, it’s completely different. (Breaks into tears.) I have lost everything. Financially, mentally, everything.

Your husband and brothers-in-law have also been suspended from their jobs. What has been the impact of this on your family?

All our family members are tensed. So much has happened. Financial loss, of course, but mentally too, we all are disturbed.

We all are scared about what might happen to us, and when. You never know. We are getting threats, unknown people are calling and inquiring about us, asking who is what in our family. Like the threats made at my sister’s house, trying to scare them that I will be murdered.

You talked about how you feel about the police. Would you want your husband to go back to that work?

It’s bread and butter for us. So what else can we do, now that I am jobless.

You said earlier that silence is not an option anymore. Why does it feel like that?

See, we have lost everything, nothing is left. It’s just that I have my daughter, and I really want to be with her. I know how I spent three days without my daughter [in police custody]. Every time they would tell her, “Mumma is hospitalised, Mumma is hospitalised.”

In January 2019, you sent letters to the National Human Rights Commission, the Delhi Commission for Women to highlight your wrongful termination.

We sent letters to so many people but they have not taken any action so far.

Not a single institution replied?

No.

Now that the committee has concluded its inquiry, what are you going to do next? Do you intend to file a writ petition?

Yes, I will file a writ petition against my dismissal.

I have sent a letter to the inquiry committee’s members seeking a copy of their final report. Now I am waiting for their response so that I can decide what to do next. They have already said that my allegations have no substance. I want to know what is the reason because I gave them all the evidence. I had already stated each and everything in my affidavit. So what made them come to this conclusion, I have no idea.

We all are scared about what might happen to us, and when. You never know.

What are your demands now?

My demand has been the same from the beginning, that someone help me get justice for all that has happened to me.

Those who tortured us so inhumanly in police custody, they should be sent there, they should know what it is like.

Could you talk about the larger motivations behind wanting to fight such a hard battle?

The wrongs my family has been subjected to, I cannot tolerate anymore. Fake allegations are being made against us. Why are so many things that supposedly happened in the past being unearthed now?

How have you been coping with everything that happened?

After October 11, I actually have little idea of what I did, what I didn’t do, to be very honest. Because I was completely in shock. You have this thing in your mind that what is happening with you is very wrong, but you are still not able to share it with anyone. And again you are going back to that place only where you don’t want to go.

Sleeplessness persists. Now I am sleepless thinking of what will happen next. I know that even in this other committee under Justice Patnaik I have no role. This is a story that is being concocted, to distract people and make them believe there are huge forces that have conspired in this matter. There is nothing like that.

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta of The Wire, Sruthisagar Yamunan and Ipsita Chakravarty of Scroll and Nikita Saxena and Atul Dev of The Caravan conducted this interview together.

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