CJI Gogoi alleges larger conspiracy behind sexual harassment charges

CJI Ranjan Gogoi said independence of judiciary is under ‘very serious threat’
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said on Saturday that the allegations of sexual harassment against him were part of a larger conspiracy to “deactivate” the office of the CJI, adding that he would “not stoop so low even to deny them”.

“After 20 years of selfless service as judge, I have a bank balance of Rs 6.80 lakh. Nobody can catch me on money. People have to find something and they have found this,” Justice Gogoi said during a specially convened hearing.

A three-judge Bench, comprising CJI Gogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna, was assembled after a former female employee of the apex court sent a detailed affidavit to the residences of 22 judges, giving details of the alleged harassment.

In her letter, the junior court assistant, who was employed with the Supreme Court from May 1, 2014, to December 21, 2018, alleged that she was harassed at the CJI's home, and that she was removed from her job without giving any reason. 

She further alleged that following her termination, both her husband and his brother had been suspended as head constables posted with Delhi Police. She said her own brother, employed with the Supreme Court, was also terminated. This, she alleged, was a direct consequence of her not agreeing to the advances made by the CJI.

The details of the affidavit, along with the letter, were first published on Friday evening by four online media outlets, which, the CJI said, had given him time till 7 AM on Saturday to respond. 

Supreme Court Secretary General S S Kalgaonkar, however, refuted the claims made in the letter. In a detailed email, he said all the allegations made by the woman concerned were mala fide and had no basis. There was no occasion for the woman to interact directly with the CJI, he said.

The letter, the secretary general said, was not only “mischievous, but a complete afterthought of her to make these false allegations at this time”. “It appears that these false allegations are being made as a pressure tactic to somehow come out of the various proceedings which have been initiated in law, against her and her family, for their wrongdoings. 

It is also very possible that there are mischievous forces behind all this, with an intention to malign the institution,” the secretary general said.

It is alleged that the woman had taken a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a person with a promise of getting him a job in the Supreme Court.

During the proceedings on Saturday, CJI Gogoi said that while the allegations made against him were an attempt to malign the judiciary, “he would continue to sit on this Bench and discharge my duties without fear or favour”.

“Why would any sane person want to become a judge? Reputation is all that we have, and even that is sought to be tarnished. If these are the conditions for judges, good people will never come forth in the judiciary,” Justice Gogoi said. Justice Khanna, who was also part of the Bench, observed that with these kinds of allegations, they felt restrained.

Attorney General (AG) Senior Advocate K K Venugopal and Solicitor General (SG) Senior Advocate Tushar Mehta were also present to assist the court in the matter. While Venugopal said he had been “under attack” from another lawyer for defending the government, Mehta urged the court to register a case under his name.

The court, however refused to pass any judicial orders and only observed that media should act responsibly and show some restraint so that “independence of judiciary is not affected” by such allegations. “We appeal to the wisdom of the media, and to act responsibly, to show restraint,” the three-judge Bench said, before rising for the day.

Later in the day, the Patiala House Court adjourned till April 24 the case in which the state has moved to cancel the bail of the woman.

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