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Supreme Court reinstates staffer who accused former CJI Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment

Bar & Bench

The Supreme Court has reinstated the Court court staffer who had levelled allegations of sexual harassment by former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, reports the Indian Express

The woman staffer had been terminated after multiple transfers on grounds that she had overstepped in questioning her transfers and that she had taken leave without authorisation.

In April last year, she alleged that she was sexually harassed by CJI Gogoi while working as a Junior Court Assistant in October 2018. In a representation sent out to Supreme Court judges, she had detailed these allegations while seeking the initiation of an inquiry against CJI Gogoi.

Former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi
Former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi

In her representation, she cited continuing harassment against her and her family as the reason for seeking the inquiry. She also complained that a false case of bribery was foisted on her, allegedly owing to her having resisted the alleged sexual advances.

After reports of the allegations first broke on April 20, a Special Bench was convened on the same day to look into the matter of grave public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary.

A three-judge Bench constituted to deal with this case, however, focused on whether there was a larger conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi and undermine judicial independence. Allegations to this effect were made by a lawyer, Utsav Bains.

A Court-appointed Committee headed by Justice (retired) AK Patnaik eventually concluded that the alleged conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi requires further inquiry.

An In-House Special Panel of Judges was also constituted to look into the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi. This panel initially comprised of Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee.

However, after the complainant raised concerns regarding Justice NV Ramana’s presence in the panel, Justice Ramana recused from the panel. In a letter penned by the complainant, it was stated that the close relationship shared by Justice Ramana with CJI Gogoi might not allow for an objective hearing of her side. Justice Indu Malhotra replaced Justice Ramana on the panel.

This panel eventually concluded that there was no substance in the sexual harassment allegations levelled by the staffer after four days of sitting.

However, the woman complainant withdrew from the proceedings on the third day on apprehensions that the inquiry was not being conducted fairly. In a letter explaining her reasons, she stated, inter alia, that she was not being allowed to be accompanied by a lawyer or a support person and that no video recording of the proceedings was being made.

After the Inquiry Panel gave a clean chit to CJI Gogoi, the complainant had also earlier registered protest over not being served a copy of the Panel’s report.

The staffer had also alleged that her husband and brother-in-law, who were working as constables with Delhi Police, had been suspended from service followed the termination of the woman complainant’s employment at the Supreme Court on December 21, 2018. In June, last year, her kin were re-instated back to service.

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