CJI appears before probe panel in sexual harassment case
New Delhi: Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday appeared before the in-house committee led by Justice S.A. Bobde, looking into allegations of sexual harassment against him by a former staffer of the Supreme Court, said an official source familiar with the proceedings.
The source said the committee had asked the Chief Justice Gogoi to appear for the in-camera proceedings. “He met the committee regarding the allegations leveled against him,” said the source.
The woman, who has alleged sexual harassment, withdrew from the proceedings of the committee on Tuesday. In a statement to the media, she expressed serious reservations over the panel, saying it was “an in-house committee of sitting judges junior to the CJI and not an external committee as I had requested.”
The committee comprises Justices S.A. Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. The panel was re-constituted after the woman objected to the inclusion of Justice N.V. Ramana on the committee, as he was apparently a close friend of the Chief Justice. Justice Ramana immediately withdrew from the panel, and he was replaced by a woman judge.
In the three hearings scheduled until Tuesday, the woman said she felt “quite intimidated and nervous” in the presence of the three judges of the Supreme Court. The woman, in her statement to the media also said during the panel’s hearing on April 26, the judges told her that it was neither an in-house committee proceeding nor a proceeding under the Vishakha Guidelines and that it was an informal proceeding.
“I was asked to narrate my account which I did to the best of my ability even though I felt quite intimidated and nervous in the presence of three Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court and without having a lawyer or support person with me,” said her statement.
The committee was formed after the woman levelled allegations against the Chief Justice reportedly in a letter to 22 judges of the Supreme Court.
After the allegations of sexual harassment surfaced on April 20, the CJI held an urgent hearing and he categorically denied the woman’s allegations.
The CJI termed it as an attack on the independence of the judiciary. “There has to be bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate office of Chief Justice,” he had said during the hearing.