Sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi: 350 women’s rights activists reject Justice Bobde committee findings

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]VER 300 women’s rights activists and civil society members, today rejected the findings of the inhouse Justice Bobde committee exonerating Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment charges and expressed their utter dismay and shock by what they described as the  “blatant abuse of power exercised by the highest constitutional authority, the Supreme Court of India”

“Today we are facing an unprecedented crisis of credibility vis-à-vis the Supreme Court. In dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice, the court has failed to give the complainant a fair hearing. Disregarding her request for a ‘special enquiry committee’, the Supreme Court instead set up an in-house Committee comprising three judges who are junior to the Chief Justice. Not surprisingly, on May 6, 2019, it declared that there is “no substance in the allegation contained in the complaint,” the 350 signatories said in a statement released to the press today.

Many of the signatories have been engaged with issues of justice, rights, and law reforms, specifically those related to women, sexual violence and Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace since the 1970s.

The three-member in-house enquiry committee of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices  S A Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra has found no substance in the complaint of sexual harassment made by a former apex court employee against the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi.

The committee, through a note released by the Secretary-General of the Supreme Court, said the findings of the report would not be made public. The report had been handed over the next senior most judge, the note said, without naming the judge. CJI Gogoi had also been given a copy of the report.

“ We vehemently reject this conclusion as it has been arrived at without adherence to norms of a fair and independent enquiry. The procedure followed in this case not only stands in utter violation of principles of natural justice but also in contravention with both, the letter and spirit of Vishakha Judgment and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 (henceforth POSH Act) that seek to recognise and mitigate disbalances of power at the workplace.

“We are aghast that 21 years after the Vishaka judgment and six years after the passing of the Act, there are no clear procedures laid down to address complaints of sexual harassment against the CJI, sitting and retired Judges of the Supreme Court,” the statement said.

“Today is a dark and sad day. The Supreme Court has told us that when it comes to one of its own, imbalances of power don’t matter, due process doesn’t matter, and basic norms of justice don’t matter”.

(Read the full text of the statement here)