Senior lawyer Dinesh Dwivedi on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court Bar Association to take the allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi seriously, Bar and Bench reported. He said Gogoi misused his powers to constitute a special bench to “gag the press indirectly”.

Dwivedi, who is a lawyer at the top court, wrote to the president of the Bar Association saying the events over the past few days have left a “disturbing impression” on his mind and asked what the judges in the Supreme Court were doing about the allegations. “I am also amazed as to what the brother judges are doing,” he said in the letter. “Are they not disturbed?...Now is the time to do some soul searching for the institution [bar association].”

Last week, a junior court assistant had sent written complaints to 22 judges alleging that she was sexually harassed by Chief Justice Gogoi in October 2018. On April 20, the Supreme Court constituted a special bench which included Gogoi.

Dwivedi said the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against the chief justice was itself shocking but what followed was “completely unbelievable behaviour” on Gogoi’s part.

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“If he was sanguine about his innocence then he should not have resorted to illegal means to do it but instead called for a press conference, as he did not long ago, and explained his side of the story,” Dwivedi said. “Instead, what he did was complete misuse of his powers. In a blatant disregard of the Constitution and its principles which he is duty bound to protect, he constituted a bench to gag the press indirectly. Despite being a part of the bench, he did not sign the order, an unprecedented step in the history of the Indian judicial system.”

Dwivedi said Gogoi should have opted out of being part of the bench under the “shadow of such serious allegations” and said that the order passed by the bench was unacceptable. “It defies all cannons of justice,” Dwivedi said. “A glaring case where the Chief Justice of India became a judge in his own cause against the principles of nemo judex in causa sua [no one should be a judge in his own case].”

Dwivedi said the court’s order showed that an attempt was made to show that the charges against Gogoi were motivated and not genuine. He said the chief justice sought to attack the complainant. “This is not only unfair and unjust but also highly unbecoming of the person holding the high office of the Chief Justice of India, a constitutional post.”

During the hearing on April 20, the chief justice had said that he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations and that they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”. Gogoi said the woman had a criminal background with two cases against her.

‘Wholly wrong’, says former SC judge

Former Supreme Court Judge N Santosh Hegde also said that the chief justice hearing a case involving the allegations against him was “wholly wrong both in law and morality”, according to News18.

“The matter was being heard on a complaint filed by one of the parties... he [the CJI] presided over the bench, and look at the things he has done...he has nowhere in the records put that he is part of the bench,” Hegde said. “He [gogoi] has participated in the dialogue there, he has not signed the order, two other judges have signed the order. What’s the meaning of this?”

“First of all, he could not have sat there.. what message is he sending,” Hegde further asked. “As Chief Justice of India can he sit in the bench and hear his own case? It’s wholly wrong both legally and morally.”