Administration

3-judge panel to look into harassment charge against CJI

Justice SA Bobde, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, was Tuesday appointed to conduct an in-house inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

When contacted, Justice Bobde, who is next to the CJI in seniority, confirmed the development.

He said being the number two judge, the Chief Justice of India has appointed him to look into the allegations of sexual harassment charges leveled by a former woman staff.

Justice Bobde told PTI that he has decided to form a panel by inducting two apex court judges — N V Ramana and Indira Banerjee.

“I decided to have Justice Ramana in the panel as he is next to me in the seniority and Justice Banerjee as she is a woman judge,” Justice Bobde said. He said he has already issued a notice to the woman who had written letters to the judges and sworn on affidavit about the alleged sexual harassment.

The first hearing will be conducted on Friday and the apex court secretary-general has also been asked to be ready with all documents and materials.

“This is going to be an in-house procedure which does not contemplate representation of advocate on behalf of parties. It is not a formal judicial proceeding,” Justice Bobde said.

He clarified that there is no time frame to complete the inquiry and future course of action will depend on “what comes out of the inquiry” which will be “confidential”.

A three-judge bench headed by CJI on Saturday had held an unprecedented hearing in the wake of allegations made against Justice Gogoi.

Describing the allegations of sexual harassment against him as “unbelievable”, the CJI had convened the extraordinary hearing at the Supreme Court during which he said a larger conspiracy was behind it and he would not stoop so low even to deny these allegations. Justice Gogoi had said some “bigger force” wanted to “deactivate” the office of the CJI.

After the Saturday’s hearing, some lawyers body and jurists had criticized the CJI for constituting the bench comprising him, though he had recused himself in the middle of the hearing leaving it for justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna to pass the order.

On Tuesday, the CJI set up a fresh bench comprising justices Mishra, RF Nariman, and Deepak Gupta to adjudicate the matter relating to sexual harassment leveled against him. The former woman apex court staffer had leveled the allegations against the CJI which was brought into the public domain by some news web portals on April 20.

The woman had worked at Justice Gogoi’s home office in Delhi and the allegations were carried by these news portals based on the affidavit by the woman.

On Saturday, the apex court had said it is leaving it to the “wisdom of media” to show restraint and act responsibly so that independence of the judiciary is not affected. The court, however, decided not to issue any gag order.

In her affidavit, the woman described two incidents of alleged molestation, days after Justice Gogoi was appointed CJI last October and her subsequent persecution.

The woman alleged that she was removed from service after she rebuffed his “sexual advances”. She claimed that her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom were head constables, were suspended for a 2012 criminal case that had been mutually resolved.

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