Women

Law Topper Skips Convocation to Protest CJI Gogoi's Handling of Sexual Harassment Charges

Had she attended, Surbhi Karwa would have received her gold medal from the Chief Justice himself.

The topper of the Master of Laws or LLM course at the National Law University at Delhi on Saturday gave the convocation ceremony the miss in protest against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s handling of the sexual harassment charges levelled against him, Indian Express has reported.

Gold medallist Surbhi Karwa would have received her award from Gogoi himself, the chief guest of the ceremony. In his capacity as chief justice, Gogoi is the de facto Visitor to the university.

The newspaper report stressed that Karwa has not, however, refused the award.

“Everything I learnt in the classroom put me in a moral quandary over the last few weeks on whether I should receive the award from CJI Gogoi. The institution he heads failed when sexual harassment allegations were made against him,” Karwa was quoted as having said by Express.

On April 20, 2019, The Wire, along with Caravan India, Scroll.in and The Leaflet had published the chilling account of a former employee of the Supreme Court who made allegations of sexual harassment against Gogoi in an affidavit that she has sent to all the judges of the court. The woman, her husband and two brothers-in-law had allegedly gone through several degrees of harassment in the aftermath of the October incident involving Gogoi.

However, the manner in which the case was dealt was thought of by many to be wanting in fairness. The secretary general of the Supreme Court begun by sending a note out to reporters a day after the affidavit was sent, saying the allegations levelled were “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous and are totally denied.”

Also read | ‘I Have Lost Everything’: Woman Who Alleged Sexual Harassment by CJI Gogoi

A hurried hearing was convened on April 20 where Gogoi said the “independence of the judiciary” was under threat and recused himself from the case. A Supreme Court inquiry committee convened to probe the allegations found “no substance” in the accusations.

The woman had withdrawn from the inquiry citing that she had not been allowed to have a lawyer or even a support person present with her during the interrogations. The report, which was shared with Gogoi, was not shared with her, she had alleged. In the aftermath, she had told The Wire that she was scared and dejected.

NLU graduate Karwa joins a protest against the way the allegations were dealt with lodged by legal practitioners across ranks.

For her Masters’ thesis, Karwa had focused on whether the constitution was feminist in nature. She has written for the The Wire on censorship guidelines plaguing the film Lipstick Under my Burkha, which deals with women’s sexualities.