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What would have passed off as a sleepy Saturday eventually turned out to be a very eventful day.
A story of alleged sexual harassment of a former Court staff of the Supreme Court by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi was published by certain online news websites and all hell broke loose. Before the gravity of the situation could sink in, a notice came to be published by the Supreme Court that a special sitting of the court has been convened at 10.30 am to deal with a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary.”
The special bench hearing the matter would comprise CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna, the notice said.
Further, the notice also stated that the matter was being taken up on a Special mention being made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. Reporters rushed to the Supreme Court and the matter was about the sexual harassment allegations against CJI. CJI spoke at length about the allegations being untrue and how the same was intended to target the judiciary. He said that the judiciary was under a “serious serious threat”.
He also maintained that he was being targeted in this manner stating that he has an unblemished career of more than twenty years during which he has been able to amass only Rs. 6.8 lakh in savings. Since, allegations regarding financial propriety could not be raised, such tactics of sexual harassment allegations were being resorted to. After the eventful hearing, the Court passed an order which is now available on the website of the Supreme Court. It is this order which appears bizarre. The order reflects the name of only Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna though CJI Ranjan Gogoi was very much a part of the Bench.
During the course of the hearing, the Bench had said that it will not pass any order since CJI Gogoi is on the Bench (as this would be a conflict of interest since the case relates to CJI Gogoi personally). In such cases, what usually happens is that a judge recuses and the order passed will record the same while sending the matter to CJI for listing before appropriate Bench. In such an order, the names of all the judges on the Bench including the one who has recused is reflected. However, that convention does not seem to have been followed in today’s order. Today’s order reflects the name of only Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna though CJI Ranjan Gogoi was very much a part of the Bench.
The content of the order is also equally intriguing. It begins by saying that it will not pass any judicial order at this moment:
“Having considered the matter, we refrain from passing any judicial order at this moment….”
However, it then goes on to state that it will “leave it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of judiciary.”
The order ends by stating that the Court is leaving it to the media to “take off such material which is undesirable.”
The vague order which is indeed a judicial order (since it goes on to make suggestions to the media especially in the last line) might be the signal that the matter is far from over.
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