Woman Activists Stage Protest Against Clean Chit To CJI Gogoi On Sexual Harassment Charges
Woman lawyers and activists staged protests across a few cities on Tuesday (7 May 2019), a day after the Supreme Court in-house panel gave a clean chit to the CJI Ranjan Gogoi on Sexual Harassment Charges.
In Delhi, around 55 protestors mainly lawyers and women rights’ activists were detained for four hours when they were protesting outside the Supreme Court. Police, after the protest, imposed Section 144 outside the apex court.
Talking to The Logical Indian about the process followed by the SC’s in-house panel, journalist and activist Rituparna Chatterjee who participated in the protest in Delhi, said, “Proper guidelines laid down under the POSH Act were not followed. Until proper guidelines are followed and fair judgement is given, protests will go on. The court needs to follow the due process.
A similar protest was organised in Bengaluru. About 30 women and men activists holding placards and banners that read ‘Supreme Injustice’ and ‘Gogoi Gotta Go’ protested in silence at Mud Tank in Bengaluru’s Richmond Town, reported The News Minute. The people, who had gathered to protest in silence, had tied black bands around their mouths.
“We feel gagged and silenced with the panel’s decision to give a clean chit to the CJI. It was a very concerted effort by the judiciary to silence the complainant, and so we feel silenced,” said women activist Shruti Sharada, one of the protesters, to The Logical Indian.
“Last year, when #MeToo movement was taking shape, there was a lot of push back against the movement. Then people said that the due process should be followed against the perpetrators, before shaming them. And now we can see that how disrespectfully the woman’s claim was rejected by the panel when she approached the SC against the perpetrator,” said Sharada. “We at least expect the Supreme Court which is the highest institution, to follow the due process,” she further added.
The woman seeks the in-house panel report
The complainant on Tuesday requested for the panel report that gave clean chit to CJI Gogoi in the harassment case.
Stating that she has every right to have access to the report, the 35-year-old complainant in a letter wrote, “If a copy of the report is being given to the CJI directly or indirectly, I am entitled to a copy thereof in any case”.
Referring to Section 13 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 which states that both parties have a right to receive a copy of the Report, Prashant Bhushan told The Quint, “They(the inquiry panel) are providing a copy to the Chief Justice (Ranjan Gogoi), therefore, why shouldn’t it be provided to the complainant?”.
In a press release, the complainant said, “I am shocked that despite my detailed affidavit, ample corroborative evidence and clear, consistent statement before the Committee reiterating my experience of sexual harassment and consequent victimisation the Committee has found ‘no substance’ in my complaint and affidavit.”
Clean chit to CJI
Earlier on Monday, a three-member committee looking into allegations made by the woman gave a clean chit to CJI. The Supreme Court Secretary-General in a press note said, “The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint.”
The inquiry panel citing the judgement of the Indira Jaising v Supreme Court of India case which also involved a sexual harassment complaint against a sitting judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2003, said that the court is not liable to make the inquiry report public.
However, in the Indira Jaising case, it was a third party that was seeking for the in-house committee report and here the complainant herself is asking for the report and therefore, “she is certainly entitled to know on what basis her allegations were not found to be substantiated, what is it that the committee examined, what evidence did they go through,” told Bhusan to The Quint.
Lawyers and activists urge retired judges to speak for justice
In an open letter to the retired judges on Tuesday, activists from women’s groups and civil society members urged retired judges to “speak up on the side of justice and fairness in the matter of allegations of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India.”
Urging for a fair and independent inquiry of the case, the activists said, “This in our understanding is a clear violation of any procedures of a fair and independent enquiry.”
The letter states that the case requires extraordinary measures to be put in place, as this is a matter pertaining to the highest judicial authority under the constitution.