SC in-house panel clears CJI Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment charges

File photo of CJI Ranjan Gogoi
The three-judge in-house committee of the Supreme Court (SC) set up to examine allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice Ranjan Gogoi has cleared him of all charges  and said it has ‘found no substance in the allegations’ made in the April 19 complaint.

A copy of the report has been given to Justice S A Bobde and CJI Gogoi, the secretary general said in a statement. The details of the report of the committee are not liable to be made public, according to a former judgment of the court, the statement said.

The clean chit to the CJI has been given by a three-judge in-house panel presided by Justices Bobde, Indira Banerjee, Justice Indu Malhotra, formed to probe the case. 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 former woman employee, who had appeared before the in-house committee on April 26, 29, and 30, withdrew from the committee later and said she would not appear before the three-judge panel anymore. In a letter on April 30, the woman had said she had ‘serious concerns and reservations’ about the committee comprising Justices Bobde, Banerjee, and Malhotra as members.

“I joined and participated in the committee proceedings in good faith on April 26 and 29, with the hope that this committee would proceed in a manner that is fair to me and sensitive to my circumstances,” she had said.

The woman, in her letter, had said that she had requested the committee to inform her about the procedure it will follow and allow her the assistance of a lawyer, both of which were denied to her. The former top court employee also alleged that she was told at the first hearing on April 26 that the committee was an informal proceeding.

The 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 the office of the CJI, alleging there was a bigger force behind all this.

Apart from the in-house committee, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Mishra and comprising Justices Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta was also set up after a lawyer filed an affidavit claiming he had been approached by some people ‘fix’ CJI Gogoi, by making false claims of sexual harassment against him.

On Monday, another petition was filed in the top court, seeking directions to the Central Bureau of Investigation to lodge a First Information Report into the alleged conspiracy to ‘fix’ the CJI. The court, while admitting the plea, said it would hear the matter in ‘due course’.