A former Supreme Court employee who accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment has written to the inquiry committee headed by Justice SA Bobde, expressing concerns over the composition of the committee, PTI reported on Wednesday.
A three-member committee consisting of Bobde and Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee was appointed on Tuesday to look into the allegations against Gogoi. Bobde is the most senior judge in the Supreme Court after the chief justice.
A notice was reportedly sent to the woman asking her to be present before the committee on Friday, according to The Wire. In her reply addressed to the three judges of the committee, the complainant said she was not aware of the composition of the inquiry panel before reading news reports about the same, according to Bar and Bench, which accessed the letter.
Citing the Visakha guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the complainant said the Supreme Court’s inquiry committee does not have a majority of women members and an external member as mandated by law, reported Live Law.
The former court employee also objected to Justice NV Ramana being included in the inquiry committee. She alleged that Ramana was a frequent visitor at Gogoi’s house and was a “close friend of the CJI and is like a family member to him”, according to Live Law.
She said that on April 20, the day her affidavit was sent to the Supreme Court judges, Ramana had dismissed her allegation while speaking in Hyderabad. “We have seen such attempts in the past and we will see some more in the future…” he had said, according to The Times of India. “Do not be wary of such criticisms as we have to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.”
The woman said she was concerned about the statements made by Gogoi and other judges during a hearing of the special bench constituted on Saturday. The complainant also cited a blog post written by Union minister Arun Jaitley. “My character was damaged without any reason and without hearing me,” she said. “Because of these events I am very scared and feeling isolated and depressed.”
The complainant requested the committee to allow her to be accompanied by a lawyer and a support person during the hearings and that the proceedings of the committee be video recorded and a copy of the recording be provided to her “so there can be no dispute about what transpired”.
Charges against Gogoi
The complainant, who used to work as a junior court assistant at the top court, wrote to 22 of its judges on April 19, 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 alleged that her family is being persecuted after the incident.
Gogoi denied the allegations during a special hearing on April 20. The chief justice said 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 has a criminal background, with two cases against her.