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‘Members of a club’: Arun Shourie on inquiry panel of Chief Justice’s case

PTI
Published : May 9, 2019, 2:58 pm IST
Updated : May 9, 2019, 2:58 pm IST

Shourie said the three judges of the Committee have done grave 'injustice to the complainant, CJI and the Supreme Court as an institution'.

Former Union Minister Arun Shourie alleged that the members of the inquiry panel were acting as the 'members of a club'. (Photo: File)
 Former Union Minister Arun Shourie alleged that the members of the inquiry panel were acting as the 'members of a club'. (Photo: File)

New Delhi: The Judges of the In-House Inquiry Committee of the top court, which gave a clean chit to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on the allegations of sexual harassment against him, has done grave "injustice to the complainant, the CJI and the Supreme Court as an institution," former Union Minister Arun Shourie said on Wednesday.

Shourie alleged that the members of the inquiry panel were acting as the "members of a club".

"In the current controversy in sexual harassment allegations made against the CJI, the three judges who were asked to investigate the matter have behaved like the members of a club. They have done grave injustice to the complainant, the CJI and to the Supreme Court as an institution," he said.

The former minister and veteran journalist, who was delivering his fourth ''Nani Palkhivala lecture, said that because of the infirmities in the whole procedure of dealing with the allegations, doubts will always linger that the three members of the committee were shielding the CJI which will corrode the credibility.

"Because of the infirmities and manifested inequities in the procedure, doubt will always linger, however unjustified, that the three judges were shielding him (CJI). He may not have required shielding. This lingering doubt corrodes credibility.

"Scepticism hardens into suspicion, howsoever unjustified. Why did this happen, because you have a false sense of institutional loyalty that you have to safeguard this reputation of the institution? That is the old notion of a club, not of an institution, especially not of an institution that is always talking about transparency," he said.

The theme of the lecture was ''What should lawyers and other professionals be doing today?'' and it was organised on the occasion of the noted jurist's birth centenary.

Shourie said the three judges of the Committee have done grave "injustice to the complainant, CJI and the Supreme Court as an institution".

By refusing to give the complainant a copy of the report of the in-house Inquiry Committee, the top court has acted like the CBI, he said.

"In CBI, they don't give you the statement you have recorded in the case. Denying the right to a person to see even what he or she has said, which is a CBI practice has now become a Supreme Court practice," he said.

He further claimed that in this case, the CJI did not discharge his judicial functions.

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Kurien Joseph, who along with Justice (Retd) J Chelameswar and M B Lokur and present CJI had held the presser allegedly against the functioning of the top court when Justice Dipak Misra was the CJI, also spoke at the occasion.

Justice Joseph said the January 12, 2018 presser was not against a person but rather against the tendency with which the judiciary was shaken.

He further said that media reports stated otherwise which showed that information has no role in the media today.

"Media is not doing what it should be doing and what it can do. The information has no role in the media today. Everyone wants to know the way information has been put. There are no independent media today," he said.

Concurring with the views of Justice Joseph, senior journalist Ashutosh said the problem arises when a section of the media manipulates information in such a way that it targets one kind of ideology.

While talking about the credibility of the judicial system, Shourie said that at present, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General have become the pleaders and facilitators of the falsehood of the government.

"They have become facilitators and partners of evil," he said.

He further said that because of the mentality of the present day lawyers to serve whoever comes first, "the best crooks get the best lawyers".

"Judicial world has become a club. It is no longer an institution," he said.

Shourie said the least the court could do in cases of sexual allegations against someone like the CJI was to set and make public the procedure that one should follow.

"The Supreme Court lays down guidelines in a judgement (Vishakha guidelines) but it will not apply to it. Elementary things like video and audio recording of the procedure, copy to be given to lawyers, the accused and the complainant, must be worked out. There should be a standing committee of three judges. So that there is no apprehension that some special judges are being selected for the special case," he said.

He further said that the appointment procedures have been under a great discussion and the "executive try to use that to usurp further power".

Shourie said that the judgements must increase faith in people's mind for the judiciary.

"If we do not believe the judgements, just imagine what a corrosion has taken place... I don't think people regard yesterday's VVPAT ruling as something that was on merits," he said.

The top court had on Tuesday rejected the VVPAT review plea of 21 opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and refused to modify its April 8 order which directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment in the Lok Sabha elections.

Tags: supreme court, cji, ranjan gogoi, arun shourie, sexual harassment case
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi