Clean Chit to CJI Gogoi: Protesters Supporting Victim Detained
May 7, 2019
Scores of women, activists, lawyers and students took to the streets this morning to protest the clean chit given to Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi by an in-house panel of the Supreme Court yesterday. What followed was a crackdown by the police with the imposition of section 144 stopping women from gathering outside the premises.
Outside the court, women who came in to peacefully express dissatisfaction with how the case was processed were dragged inside police vehicles and taken away to Mandir Marg police station. Among those arrested are Annie Raja, activist Anjali Bhardwaj, academic Uma Chakravarti, lawyer Nandini Rao and Nandini Sundar and Amrita Johri, from the Right to Food campaign. Johri said, “They are not leaving us, unless higher authorities allow it. This is a clear attempt to suppress us and our voice.”
Prior to her detention, Annie Raja had told Newsclick, “Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi needs to resign. The credibility of the judiciary has taken a serious hit with the manner in which the complainant was not even given a lawyer. The due process which has been laid down in the framework of the Internal Complaints Committee and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act (POSH) has been completely overtaken.”
The protests come after the in-house panel of the top court headed by Justice S.A. Bobde found no substance on Monday, May 5, in the sexual harassment allegations levelled by a former apex court employee against Chief Justice Gogoi. The committee, comprising Justices S A Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, wrapped up the inquiry in sittings over four days — three days were devoted to questioning and recording the statement of the complainant. One of the protesters on the ground said, “We are shocked and shaken to see the state of the crackdown imposed on us, where we can’t even stand and express our dissent to this unfair process that was allowed to take place. Indeed it is a peculiar case, one that India has never seen. Instead of setting a precedent for the future, we have to take to the streets to defend the basic values of the Constitution.”
On April 30, the complainant had accused the CJI of sexually harassing her, and had said that she would no longer appear before the in-house panel set up by the apex court to probe her charges as she felt that she was "not likely to get justice”. She also went on to add that the constitution of the panel is not fair, as she had requested for an external panel to take over the enquiry of the case. The complainant added that she was informed that it was an informal panel.
Indira Jaising also expressed her dissent with the clean chit. The Supreme Court Secretary General, while announcing the clean chit to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by the three member in-house committee that was formed to look into allegations of sexual harassment against him, said: “Please take note that in case of Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India & Anr. (2003) 5 SCC 494, it has been held that the Report of a Committee constituted as a part of the In-House Procedure is not liable to be made public.” Responding promptly, senior advocate Jaising, in a Twitter post with the hashtag #NotInMyName, said:
JUST IN: In-house inquiry committee headed by Justice S A Bobde finds no substance in the allegations of sexual harassment made by ex-employee of the Supreme Court against the CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
In-house inquiry report not to be made public. pic.twitter.com/gzqUjfIsVL
— The Leaflet (@TheLeaflet_in) May 6, 2019
Justice D Y Chandrachud, in a letter, dated May 2, to the inquiry panel headed by Justice Bobde, demanded a full court to consider the issues raised by him. Calling the denial of a lawyer to the woman complainant a “serious denial of fair process”, Justice Chandrachud’s letter said it is a question of “her dignity” which needs to be protected. Moreover, provision of a lawyer is not a privilege but “a matter of right” for the complainant.
The protesters are now demanding that the CJI must step down. After the protests in Delhi today, similar marches are being planned in Bangalore and other major cities. The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) in a statement said, “The charges against the Chief Justice need to be investigated in a manner which is credible and transparent”. Previously, when the special bench convened by the Supreme Court for the complaint was questioned across spectrums, the women’s association had raised several questions over the way in which the case was being handled.
First published in Newsclick.
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