Had sought panel of retired judges in CJI case, says AG Venugopal

CJI Ranjan Gogoi
The Attorney General (AG) of India Senior Advocate K K Venugopal on Friday said that he had written to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice Ranjan Gogoi and four senior most judges of the court seeking a panel of three retired Supreme Court judges to probe the charges of sexual harassment against the CJI.

A second letter, AG Venugopal said, had been written by him clarifying that the view to set up a panel of former Supreme Court judges was his personal opinion and not of the government. The letters had been written by him before the three-judge in house panel led by Justice S A Bobde had been constituted. He, however, denied reports that he had offered to step down from his post over the difference in opinion with the government over the constitution of the in-house panel.

A three-judge in house panel, comprising of Justices Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra was formed to probe the charges of sexual harassment levelled by a former woman employee of the top court against CJI Gogoi. The panel, formed on April 24, initially had Justices Bobde, Banerjee, and N V Ramana. Justice Ramana later recused from the committee after the woman complainant had said she was not comfortable with his presence as he was very close to CJI Gogoi.

The three judge in-house panel had on May 6 cleared CJI Gogoi of all charges and said it has ‘found no substance in the allegations’ made in the April 19 complaint.

On April 19, a 35-year-old former junior court assistant of the top court had on April 19 sent a detailed affidavit to the residences of 22 judges of the SC, giving details of the alleged harassment. In her letter, the former top court staffer, who was employed with the SC from May 1, 2014, to December 21, 2018, alleged she was harassed at the CJI’s home, and that she was removed from her job without assigning any reason. The former employee had described two incidents of alleged molestation by CJI Gogoi in her affidavit, both of which allegedly took place in October 2018, days after he was appointed the CJI.

In response to her affidavit, the details of which were published by some online news websites, CJI Gogoi along with Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna held an unprecedented hearing on April 20. In the hearing, CJI Gogoi, while terming the allegations as ‘unbelievable’, had said he would not stoop so low ‘to even to deny the allegation’. CJI Gogoi had also termed it an attempt to deactivate his office, alleging there was a bigger force behind all this.

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