The Supreme Court on Sunday issued a clarification denying that Justices DY Chandrachud and Rohinton Nariman met Justice SA Bobde, who is one of the members of a committee investigating sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The Indian Express had reported earlier in the day that Chandrachud and Nariman met the inquiry panel – comprising Justices SA Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra – on May 3 to express their concerns.
In a press release, Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Kalgaonkar called the report “most unfortunate”, according to Bar and Bench. “The in-house committee which is deliberating on the issue concerning honourable chief justice of India deliberates on its own without any input from any other honourable judge of this court,” he added.
Citing sources, The Indian Express had reported that Chandrachud wrote in a letter on May 2 to the inquiry panel that the Supreme Court’s credibility would be damaged further if they continued the investigation without the complainant. On May 3, in his letter, Chandrachud added that the committee could either permit the complainant to be represented by a lawyer, or appoint an amicus curiae in the case, the report had said.
On April 30, the complainant had said she was not allowed to bring a lawyer or person of support, and was also denied her request that the proceedings be recorded on video. Subsequently, she withdrew from the proceedings, but the probe committee had decided to carry on the investigation in her absence. Gogoi appeared before the in-house committee on May 2.
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.
On May 1, women’s groups, lawyers, activists, academics and writers issued a joint statement on Thursday expressing solidarity with the decision of the woman to withdraw from the case.
Update: This story has been edited to reflect the Supreme Court’s denial of the incident.