Supreme Court stated that the three member in-house committee has found no substance in complaint made by former employee against CJI.
New Delhi: A three-judge inquiry panel probing the allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by a former woman employee of the court has found no substance in the allegations and has given Chief Justice Gogoi a clean chit in the matter.
The in-house committee, comprising Justices S.A. Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, said it did not find any substance in the allegations, which first surfaced on April 19 when the alleged victim wrote letters to all the judges of the Supreme Court.
A statement from the Supreme Court secretary-general on Monday said: “The in-house committee has submitted its report dated May 5, in accordance with the in-house procedure, to the next senior judge competent to receive the report. A copy has also been sent to CJI Gogoi.”
The statement said: “The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations made by the former Supreme Court employee in her complaint dated April 19.” It said as per the judgment in the case of Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India, the report of the committee was not liable to be made public. The complainant said “gross injustice” had been done to her and she was “dejected and disappointed” with the outcome.
“My worst fears have come true and all hope of justice and redress from the highest court of the land have been shattered. I will consult my lawyer and decide on the next steps. Today, I am at the verge of losing faith in the idea of justice,” the woman said in a statement.
On April 30, the woman who made the allegations opted out of the Supreme Court probe into the allegations against the Chief Justice, alleging that the atmosphere of the inquiry was very frightening. The allegations of the dismissed staffer had appeared in news reports on April 20. The complainant used to work at Justice Gogoi’s home office in New Delhi. At a special sitting held on a Saturday, the CJI had described the allegations as “unbelievable” and said there was a “larger conspiracy” against him. He said some “bigger force” wanted to “deactivate” the office of the Chief Justice of India.
The complainant had said: “I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings on the third day because the committee seemed not to appreciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but was a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI, and therefore it was required to adopt a procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances that I am placed.”
She said: “I had hoped the approach of the committee towards me would be sensitive and not one that would cause me further fear, anxiety and trauma. I have not been informed if the committee has sought any response from the CJI to my complaint and I have been left guessing and anxious on all these matters.”
She said she joined and participated in the committee proceedings in good faith on April 26 and 29 with the hope that this committee would proceed in a manner that was fair to her and sensitive to her circumstances. Despite the fact that the committee was an in-house committee of sitting judges junior to the CJI, and not an external committee, she joined the proceedings with a lot of hope considering that the committee comprised of such eminent judges.
When she requested the committee to inform her about the procedure to be followed by the committee, to follow the requirements of the Vishakha guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Against Women at the Workplace Act, she was told it was an “informal inquiry” and no assistance of a lawyer would be rendered to her.
Supporting the victim’s stand, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote a letter to Justice Bobde on May 2, seeking the inclusion of a retired woman judge as an external member. The letter suggested the names of retired judges Justices Ruma Pal, Sujata Manohar and Ranjana Prasad Desai. Justice Chandrachud also urged the panel to address the grievances raised by the woman complainant such as allowing her legal assistance by a lawyer, and to appoint an amicus curiae to assist her, but the panel did not take this letter into consideration.