Over 250 women from various fields including law, human rights and academia on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013 into the sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
On April 19, the complainant, who used to work as a junior court assistant at the top court, wrote to 22 of its judges, alleging that Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11. In the affidavit, the woman said that after she rebuffed the chief justice, she was moved out of his residence office, where she had been posted in August. Two months later, on December 21, she was dismissed from service. One of the three grounds for dismissal, as detailed in an inquiry report, was that she had taken casual leave for one day without approval. She has said that her family is being persecuted after the incident.
In their letter to the top court, the signatories demanded that a special inquiry committee of “credible individuals” be set up and that Gogoi should refrain from transacting official duties till the inquiry is over. They also said that the complainant should be allowed legal assistance of her choice and that the inquiry should be completed within 90 days.
“While the allegations listed in the affidavit are shocking, equally worrisome was the response of the Chief Justice,” the signatories wrote. “He constituted a bench to hear his own case!”
On April 20, Gogoi had denied the allegations during a special hearing on the “independence of the judiciary”, convened in the midst of the court’s Easter break. The chief justice had said that he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations but claimed 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.
The signatories said the chief justice’s and the Supreme Court’s response to the allegations delegitimises women’s complaints of sexual harassment. “They have declared that the allegation is itself an attempt to tarnish the independence of the judiciary,” said the signatories that include lawyers, scholars, journalists and writers. “This is both indefensible and appalling. We fail to see what this has to do with the independence of the judiciary, which we wish to uphold as conscientious citizens, but this ought not to be interpreted to mean immunity from investigation when allegations are made.”
On Tuesday, a three-member committee of Supreme Court judges led by Justice SA Bobde was formed to look into allegations. Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee are also part of the panel. “The constitution of this committee with no external member is in complete violation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013,” said the signatories.
Citing media reports, the signatories said the committee violates the Vishakha judgement. “Media reports that this committee will start hearing on Friday and that it has no fixed time frame in which to finish the proceedings, will follow an in house procedure and will not allow legal representation to either parties. While Ranjan Gogoi may not need legal representation, this is tilting the balance against the complainant, again violating the spirit of the Vishakha judgement and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013,” they added.
Read their full statement below:
The Judges of the Supreme Court of India,
We, lawyers, scholars and members of women’s groups and civil society are shocked at reading the contents of the complaint of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation suffered by a former employee of the Supreme Court of India. An affidavit was submitted by the aggrieved woman to the 22 judges of the Hon’ble Supreme Court detailing the sexual harassment faced by her from none less than the Chief Justice of India. The 29 pages-long affidavit explained how she was posted in the office of the Chief Justice, systematically pursued at her home and office through calls and messages, encouraged initially with compliments, favours and excessive attention, finally followed by sexual advances. The administrative persecution both by way of termination of employment, and registration of criminal cases against her and her family members came upon her when she rejected the sexual advances made by the Chief Justice.
While the allegations listed in the affidavit are shocking, equally worrisome was the response of the Chief Justice: apart from denying the charges, he constituted a Special Bench along with two other Judges at 10.30 am to hear a matter of “great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”. In short, he constituted a Bench to hear his own case! Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who were part of the specially constituted Bench, noted that they will not pass an Order, but nevertheless did so. Referring to the allegations as “wild and scandalous”, they went on to say that such allegations negate the independence of the Judiciary. They also counseled the media to observe restraint. Strangely, the Order did not name the presence of the Chief Justice at whose instance the Special Bench was convened. Further, there was nothing in the Order which indicated that the Judges passed this Order based upon any investigation by a competent authority.
We are both shocked and saddened that the Chief Justice of India as well as the Special Bench have responded as most men, in public office or in positions of authority and power do, when accused of sexual misconduct. Denial of the allegations, maligning the complainant, citing past histories, imputing ulterior motives to the complainant are familiar and regular devices deployed by accused men. Equally common is the undertaking of vindictive measures including administrative harassment and suits of defamation against complainants.
Not only have the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of India not set an example by their behavior, but they appear to have moved a step ahead to delegitimize women’s complaints of sexual harassment – they have declared that the allegation is itself an attempt to tarnish the independence of the Judiciary. This is both indefensible and appalling. We fail to see what this has to do with the independence of the Judiciary, which we wish to uphold as conscientious citizens, but this ought not to be interpreted to mean immunity from investigation when allegations are made.
The Bar Council of India has rubbished the complaint as an attempt to malign the Judiciary and termed it politically motivated. In the absence of a duly conducted investigation or enquiry, we are puzzled about how the BCI, lawyers and judges are concluding with such haste that the complaint is false, baseless and motivated.
On 24th April it has been reported that, Justice Bobde, the next senior most judge from Supreme court has been asked by the CJI to appoint a committee which will enquire into the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI.
Justice Bobde has appointed a committee with himself as chair and Justice N V Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee as members. The constitution of this committee with no external member is in complete violation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.
Media reports that this committee will start hearing on Friday 26th April 2019 and that it has no fixed time frame in which to finish the proceedings, will follow an in house procedure and will not allow legal representation to either parties. While the Mr Ranjan Gogoi may not need legal representation, this is tilting the balance against the complainant, again violating the spirit of the Vishakha judgement and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.
In the given circumstances, keeping in mind the magnitude of the complaint we demand:
a) A Special Enquiry Committee consisting of credible individuals be constituted to conduct a thorough enquiry at the earliest and create an atmosphere of transparency and confidence for the complainant to depose. b) The Special Enquiry Committee should follow the norms of the IC and accordingly
conduct its enquiry. c) The Chief Justice of India should refrain from transacting official duties and
responsibilities until the completion of the enquiry. d) The Complainant should be allowed legal assistance from lawyer of her choice.
e) The enquiry should be completed within 90 days as stated in the law.
It is these measures which will uphold the dignity and independence of the Judiciary and more particularly, restore the faith of all women, indeed all citizens of the country, in the Judiciary.
1. Rama Melkote, Prof.(Retd) Osmania University 2. Amita Dhanda, Professor, Nalsar, Hyderabad 3. S Jeevan Kumar, Human Rights Forum 4. Flavia Agnes, Advocate 5. Labia, A Queer Feminist LBT Collective Mumbai 6. Chayanika Shah, FAOW 7. V.Geetha, Writer, Chennai 8. Vasudha Nagaraj, Advocate 9. Jayasree Subramanian, Visiting Faculty, HBSE, Mumbai 10. Veena Gowda, Advocate
11. N. Vasanti, Professor of Constitutional Law, Nalsar, Hyderabad 12. Mary E John, New Delhi 13. Veena Shatrugna, Former Deputy Director, National Institute of Nutrition 14. Uma Chakravarti, Historian 15. Sandhya Gokhale, Mumbai 16. Ammu Abraham, Mumbai 17. Nandita Shah, Akshara, Mumbai 18. B. Girija, State Project Manager, Sakhi Telangana 19. Kabi Sherman, Mumbai 20. Meena Gopalan, Mumbai 21. Hasina Khan, Mumbai 22. Shals Mahajan, Mumbai 23. Rohit Prajapati, Vadodara 24. Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai 25. A. Suneetha, Anveshi Research Center for Women’s Studies 26. Susie Tharu, Prof.(Retd) EFL University 27. K Sudha, Assistant Professor, DSNLU, Member, Human Rights Forum 28. K Anuradha, Human Rights Forum 29. Janaki Nair, JNU 30. Sujata Patel, Indian Institute of Advanced Study 31. Sukla Sen, Mumbai 32. Kamayani Mahabal, Mumbai 33. Lara Jessani, Advocate, Mumbai 34. Dr J Vijayalakshmi, Advocate 35. Archana Pydah, Advocate 36. K. Kiran Mayee, Advocate 37. V. Naga Lakshmi, Advocate 38. Sneha Bhogle, Advocate 39. M. Mandakini, Advocate 40. Mohammed Shakeel, Advocate 41. Sherin. B.S, EFL University, Hyderabad 42. Ranjana, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Bhubaneswar 43. Kalpana Karunakaran, IIT Madras 44. B. Girija, 45. Kavitha Muralidharan, Journalist, Chennai 46. Meera Velayudhan, Policy Analyst, Kochi 47. Prema Revati, Educationist 48. Rachana Mudraboyina, Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti 49. Karuna, Researcher, Chennai 50. Dr Rukmini Rao, Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Hyderabad 51. Saheli, Women’s Resource Center, New Delhi 52. Vasudha Katju, Researcher, New Delhi 53. K. Satyavati, Bhumika, Hyderabad 54. Aisha Farooqui, Prof. (Retd) Osmania University 55. Swathy Margaret, Researcher 56. S. Ashalatha, Social Activist 57. Sajaya. K, Caring Citizens Collective
58. Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti 59. Asma Rasheed, EFL University, Hyderabad 60. Tejaswini Madabhushi, Hyderabad for Feminism 61. Uma Bhrugubanda, EFL University, Hyderabad 62. Radhika Khajuria, New Delhi 63. Purwa Bharadwaj, Delhi 64. Yenna Deepa Sai, Advocate 65. Ketki Ranade, Mumbai 66. Asha Achuthan, Mumbai 67. Vineeta Bal, Pune. 68. Anjali Rawat, Law Researcher 69. Anubha Rastogi, Lawyer, Mumbai 70. Madhu Bhushan 71. Aatreyee Sen, Forum for Human Rights and Justice, Himachal Pradesh 72. Pragnya Joshi, PUCL, Udaipur 73. Dr. Albertina Almeida, Advocate, Goa. 74. Vennela Madabhushi, Lawyer, Bangalore 75. Harini Karnamadakala, Content Writer 76. Nari Samata Manch 77. Anuradha Pati, Development Professional 78. Soma KP, Independent Research Scholar 79. Lata Singh, JNU 80. Urmilla Chandran, Principal Technical Writer 81. Sarah Mathews, Sankalp Women’s Support Alliance 82. Nari Samata Manch, Pune 83. North East Network, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland 84. Kaneez Fatima, Activist and Librarian 85. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships 86. Masooma Ranalvi, We SpeakOut 87. Srinivas Vellikad, Senior Manager, Documentation. 88. S. Seethalakshmi, Researcher 89. Lakshmi Lingam, Professor, Mumbai 90. Sunkara Rajendra Prasad, Advocate, Vijayawada 91. Supriya Jan, CORO India 92. Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM 93. Vahida Nainar, Mumbai 94. Karuna DW, Chennai 95. Sumi Krishna, Independent Scholar, Bangalore 96. Laxmi Murthy, Journalist, Bangalore 97. Meena Seshu, Sangram 98. Jayasree.A K., Professor, Community Medicine, Govt. Medical College, Kannur,
Kerala 99. Shaitan Singh, Law Student, Visakhapatnam 100. Anjana Ramanathan, Advocate 101. Piyoli Swatija, Advocate 102. VS Krishna, Human Rights Forum 103. Smita Gupta, New Delhi
104. North East Network, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland 105. Saheli Women’s Resource Center, New Delhi 106. Geeta Seshu, Journalist 107. Lakshmi Krishnamurthy 108. Reva Yunus, Azim Premji University 109. Ritu Dewan, Vice President at Indian Society of Labour Economics 110. Sarojini.N, New Delhi 111. Brinelle D’souza, TISS 112. Deeptha Achar, Professor, Baroda 113. Shilpaa Anand, BITS- Pilani, Hyderabad campus 114. Shefali Jha, University of Hyderabad 115. M. Madhavi, Assistant Professor, Presidency University, Bangalore 116. Kumar Shubham Raj, Advocate, Bihar 117. Vedula Chitralekha, Advocate 118. Bushra Quasmi, Asst Prof, DSNLU, Visakhapatnam 119. Madhumeeta Sinha, EFL University 120. B Syama Sundari, Dastakar Andhra 121. Abha Bhaiya, Jagori 122. Ambika Tandon, New Delhi 123. Anandhi.S, Researcher, Chennai 124. Dr. M. Ajay, Dermatologist 125. Sumitra, Ankuram 126. Shalini Gera, Advocate, Bilaspur High Court 127. Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Telangana 128. Smita Gupta, New Delhi 129. Govind Kelkar, Senior Advisor - Women, Land & Productive Assets 130. Sharmila Sreekumar, IIT, Bangalore 131. P V Srividya, Journalist, Krishnagiri 132. Jayasree Subramanian, Visiting Faculty, HBSCE, Mumbai 133. K. Katyayani, Prof (Retd), Kakatitya University, Warangal 134. Deepa V health Activist, Delhi 135. Sunita Sheel, Forum for Medical Ethics Society, Mumbai; Vidhayak Trust, Pune 136. Anuradha Kapoor, Kolkata 137. Veena Johari, Advocate, Mumbai 138. Mumtaz Sheikh, CORO Mahila Mandal federation Mumbai 139. Rohini Hensman, Writer & Researcher 140. Dr Sagari R Ramdas, Veterinary Scientist 141. Tashi Choedup, Buddhist Monastic, Human Rights Activist 142. Poushali Basak, Mumbai 143. Aditi Joshi, Mumbai 144. Amarjit Singh, Mumbai 145. Kaveri Dadhich, Mumbai 146. Padma, Independent Researcher , Mumbai 147. Abhay. S 148. Cleophas. B 149. Leena. M 150. Sonakshi.K
151. Loshua. S 152. Anurita.P 153. Hitesh. F 154. Shakun Doundiyakhed, Ooty 155. R. Alphonso, Mumbai 156. Neha Singh, Mumbai 157. Shewli Kumar, Mumbai 158. Bharati Kapadia, Mumbai 159. Bindhulakshmi Pattadath, Mumbai 160. Bharathi. G 161. Catrinel Dunca, Ahmedabad 162. Sudhanva. V 163. Nirja Vasavada, Ahmedabad 164. Shumona Goel 165. Mani A., Kolkata 166. Kamaxi Bhate, Mumbai 167. Ariane. B 168. Mehernosh. B 169. Dhruvika. J 170. Haresh. T 171. Rajeev. C 172. Mridul Dudeja, Mumbai 173. Persis. S 174. Pallavi. G 175. Chandanathil. G 176. Lavanya.J 177. Pratishtha. P 178. Satjot. L 179. Margaret. G 180. Jogitha. J 181. Ajit. P 182. Eshvendar. R 183. Aapyayani. K 184. Kavinder. R 185. Doris. L 186. Moruni. M 187. Kavya. S 188. Jayaram. N 189. Ekta. S 190. Samir. P 191. Nandini Rao, Activist, New Delhi 192. Rakhi Sehgal, Labour Activist, New Delhi 193. Gayatri, Faculty, TISS, Hyderabad 194. Abhiti Gupta, Legal Activist, New Delhi 195. Maneka Khanna, Advocate, Delhi 196. Surabhi Dhar, Advocate, Delhi 197. Zeba Sikora, Advocate, Mumbai
198. Rupali Samuel, Advocate, Delhi 199. Payoshi Roy, Advocate, Mumbai 200. Archit Krishna, Advocate, Chattisgarh 201. Satnam Kaur 202. Reethika Ravikumar 203. Mini Mathew, Advocate 204. Sadhna Arya, University of Delhi 205. Fatima N, Tamil Nadu 206. V Rukmini Rao, Hyderabad, Telangana 207. Poorva Rajaram, Researcher, New Delhi 208. Vanessa Chishti, Jindal Law University, Sonipat 209. Esther Moraes, New Delhi 210. Niti Saxena, Lucknow 211. Tusharika Mattoo, Advocate, Delhi 212. Maulshree Pathak, Advocate Delhi 213. Shreya munoth, Advocate, Delhi 214. Sayali Kadu, Advocate, Delhi 215. Shuchi Dwivedi, Advocate, Delhi 216. Rhea Goyal, Advocate, Delhi 217. Sowjhanya Shankaran, Advocate, Delhi 218. Anushree Malviya, Advocate, Delhi 219. Sonal Sarda, Advocate, Delhi 220. Sanya Kumar, Advocate, Delhi 221. Shreya Rastogi, Advocate, Delhi 222. Harshita Reddy, Advocate, Delhi 223. Sanjana Srikumar, Advocate, Delhi 224. Avantika, Advocate Delhi 225. Ninni Susan Thomas, Advocate Delhi 226. Nidhi Rao Gummuluru, Advocate, Delhi 227. Vasundhara Majithia, Advocate Delhi 228. Meghana Sengupta, Advocate Delhi 229. Shailiza Sharma, Advocate, Delhi High Court 230. Kanika Sood, Advocate Delhi 231. Kruti Venkatesh, Advocate, Bombay High Court 232. Bhavana Sunder, Advocate, Bombay High Court 233. Rhea Jha, Advocate, Bombay High Court 234. Devyani Kulkarni, Advocate, High Court, Bombay 235. Khusboo Agarwal, Bombay 236. Sara Ahmed, Bombay 237. Surabhi Singh, Advocate, High Court at Bombay 238. Ronita Bhattacharya, Advocate, High Court, Bombay 239. Jahnavi Vishwanath, Chennai 240. Janaki Abraham, Delhi University 241. Dimple Oberoi Vahali 242. Vandana Mahajan, A Feminist Practitioner 243. Lalita Ramdas, Educator and Citizen, Alibag, Maharashtra 244. Bebaak Collective
245. Chitra Sinha, Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Sweden 246. Sana Contractor, Public Health Researcher, New Delhi 247. Vasudha Sawaiker, Social Justice Action Committee, Goa 248. Amita Kanekar, Writer, Goa 249. Adsa Fatima, Health Activist, Delhi 250. Dr Mira Shiva 251. Dr. Saswati Ghosh, Academic and Activist, Kolkata 252. Amita Pitre, Consultant, Public Health and Gender Justice, Mumbai 253. Gayatri Singh, Senior Advocate, Bombay High Court 254. Nisha Biswas, Kolkata 255. Bindhulakshmi, Mumbai 256. Kiran Shaheen 257. Radhika Desai, Hyderabad 258. Ritu Dewan, Mumbai 259. Purnima Gupta, New Delhi