Indian Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi cleared in sexual harassment case

Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi
Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi had faced allegations of sexual harassment, of which he was cleared | PTI File

The three-judge in-house committee constituted to probe allegations of sexual harassment  against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has cleared the CJI, said a notice put on the Supreme Court’s website. Also, in line with the judgment delivered by the top court in the Indira Jaising case, the findings of the committee will not be made public, the notice further stated. The report of a committee constituted as part of the in-house procedure is not liable to be made public, the notice said.

The report has been submitted to the next senior-most judge competent to receive it.

The panel has concluded that there is no substance in the allegations levelled by a former employee of the Supreme Court, said the notice.

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The Supreme Court held an extraordinary hearing on April 20 after a former employee of the apex court accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment and persecution. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Gogoi was constituted after a sworn affidavit by the woman — copies of which were sent to the residences of 22 apex court judges — became public on April 20.

During the hearing in CJI’s court No 1, an unfazed Justice Gogoi said the allegations were unbelievable. “This is unbelievable. I don’t think I should stoop low even to deny these allegation,” he said, adding, “There has to be bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate the office of CJI. “The apex court registry in a notice earlier in the day said a three-bench headed by the CJI was being set up to deal with a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”.

The bench also comprised justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna. The former employee had described two incidents of alleged molestation by Gogoi in her affidavit, both of which allegedly took place in October 2018, only days after he was appointed the CJI.

Confirming that a letter by the woman had been received by several sitting judges, Supreme Court secretary general Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said all the allegations made by the woman concerned were malafide and had no basis. Stating that it 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 judiciary is under “very, very severe” threat. “After 20 years of selfless service as judge, I have bank balance of ₹6.80 lakh,” he said. “Nobody can catch me on money, people have to find something and they have found this: This is the reward CJI gets after 20 years of service,” Justice Gogoi. He made it clear that he will preside over the CJI court and discharge his judicial functions without any fear. “I have taken this unusual and extraordinary step of sitting in court today because things have gone too far,” he said. Judiciary can’t be made a scapegoat, said CJI Gogoi.

On April 23, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi appointed the senior-most puisne judge, Justice S.A. Bobde, to conduct an in-house inquiry into allegations. Justice Bobde nominated Justice N.V.Ramana, the next in seniority, and Justice Indira Banerjee to the in-house panel to examine the veracity of the allegations.

Justice Bobde, in a statement to PTI, said, “This is going to be an in-house procedure which does not contemplate representation of advocate on behalf of parties. It is not a formal judicial proceeding.”

The former apex court employee, who levelled the allegations, decided on Tuesday (April 30) not to participate any more before the in-house inquiry panel. The employee said in a statement that on Tuesday was the third day she had gone to participate before the three-member panel headed by Justice SA Bobde. “But due to serious concerns and reservations, I am no longer participating in these in-house committee proceedings,” she said in a statement.

Supreme Court judge Indu Malhotra was on Thursday (April 25) appointed a new member of the in-house inquiry panel set up to examine the allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, following the recusal of Justice N V Ramana. Justice S A Bobde, who is heading the inquiry panel and is the senior-most judge after the CJI, has appointed Justice Malhotra to the committee. Justice Indira Banerjee is also part of the panel.

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