The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a petition that sought to restrict the media from publishing stories about the sexual harassment allegations made by a former Supreme Court employee against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, PTI reported.
The top court is already considering the matter and no interference is needed, a bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon said.
The petition was filed by non-governmental organisation Anti Corruption Council of India. It had sought the immediate restriction on the media from telecasting or publishing the allegations against Gogoi till a three-judge panel completes its inquiry into them, The Indian Express reported.
If restrictions are not placed, “people will lose faith in the Indian judicial system” and the “vast damage” to the nation and its people would be “irreparable”, the petition said. The plea said the petitioner “strongly suspects involvement of anti-national elements” in the allegations.
Scroll.in, one of the first to report the allegations on April 20, was on the list of entities for which the petition had sought directions. The others were the Union ministries of Law and Justice and Information and Broadcasting, the Delhi government, the Press Council of India, the Delhi Police commissioner, WhatsApp, Google, YouTube and LinkedIn.
The petition said that the publication of the allegations directly hit the Indian judicial system. It claimed that a “false affidavit filed by the dismissed employee of the office of CJI cannot be built as a pillar to put allegations on the Chief Justice of India”.
The petition said that unless the allegations are proven during the inquiry, the media should be restricted from “advertising and besmirching the image of the CJI” and the judiciary.
The panel conducting the in-house inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations comprises Justices SA Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. It began its proceedings on April 26.
The case and Gogoi’s reaction
The complainant in the sexual harassment case used to work as a junior court assistant at the top court. On April 19, she wrote to 22 Supreme Court 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 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.