CJI Accused Of Sexual Harassment And Subsequent Victimization By Former Supreme Court Employee; CJI Responds “Judiciary Is Under Threat”
On 19th April, 2019, a former employee of the Supreme Court who held the position of a Junior Court Assistant sent a sworn affidavit to the residences of 22 Judges of the Supreme Court containing allegations of Sexual Assault against the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Ranjan Gogoi.
An ‘extraordinary’ hearing with a three member bench comprising of the CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna was held on Saturday, 20th April 2019.
The CJI in today’s hearing responded that the allegations were unbelievable and that this is an attempt to malign his reputation and threaten the independence of the CJI office.
What were the woman’s claims?
The news picked up steam when an unnamed woman formerly employed as a Junior Court Assistant at the the apex court and later at the residence office of the CJI alleged in a sworn affidavit that Justice Ranjan Gogoi made sexual advances towards her on October 10 and 11, 2018. Only a week prior to this alleged incident on October 3, Justice Gogoi swore in as the 46th Chief Justice of India.
The affidavit also claimed that she and her family have been victimized and persecuted after she rebuffed his (CJI’s) advances on October 11, 2019.
Her affidavit as reported by news sources says she was dismissed from her services on 21, December 2018. She further claims that her husband and brother in law had been suspended on 28th December 2018 for previously ‘mutually resolved’ criminal charges. She also claimed that her differently abled brother-in-law was dismissed from his temporary services at the Supreme Court on January 14th, 2019.
She states she was further persecuted in March, 2019 when Delhi police showed up at her ancestral home to take her back to Delhi to question her for a complaint lodged against her in 2017. The complainant alleges she took a sum of 50,000 rupees from him and failed on her promise to secure a job for him at the Supreme Court.
She claims she even ‘apologized’ to Mrs. Gogoi by prostrating at her feet with her nose touching her (mrs.Gogoi’s) feet on January 11.
The allegations as reported by Scroll also include that the CJI texted her on WhatsApp beyond official hours and later asked her to delete all messages transpired between them.
What did the Secretary General say?
The Secretary General of the Apex court responded to Reporters of Scroll that the allegations were “absolutely false and scurrilous and are totally denied”
“(She)was dismissed from service as per procedure. Her brother-in-law was terminated as he was only a temporary employee at that stage and his performance and conduct was reported not to be satisfactory.”
The response addressed all the allegations made against the CJI and claims the motives of the same to be “mischievous”
“Its is also very possible that there are mischievous forces behind all this, with an intention to malign the institution.”
CJI’s Emotional response on Saturday
In today’s three bench hearing at the Apex court no.1, the CJI responded as follows,
“The responsibility of calling this hearing is mine. I have taken this unusual and unprecedented step because things have gone too far. The judiciary cannot be targeted like this,”
He also added that the allegations were unbelievable and that he wouldn’t “stoop so low even in denying it”
In response to the four publications by different news portals to the allegations levied against him he said,
“Less than 10 hours notice was given to me to respond. What I want to tell citizens is that judiciary of this country is under serious threat”
He added that the allegations intended to target and malign his reputation.
“Why would any sane person want to become a judge? Reputation is all that we have. That is also under attack.“
His emotional appeal also expressed how these allegations were the rewards accorded to him for 20 years of service and a bank balance of Rs. 6,80,000.
“…They cannot catch me on money. So they have brought this up.”
In what can be described as an unfazed move, he has responded that he would continue his duties “without fear or favour”
Justice Arun Mishra, who along with Justice Sanjeev Khanna formed the CJI’s companion judges on the Bench, termed the allegation “wild and baseless”.
Speaking for the bench Justice Mishra said there was no need to pass a judicial order and that the court was leaving it to the wisdom of media to act responsibly on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI. The court said the independence of the judiciary is under “very, very severe” threat.