[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE former Supreme Court employee who had complained about the sexual harassment she faced from the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, today expressed extreme disappointment and dejection that the in-house enquiry committee of the apex court had found “no substance” in her complaint.
“Today, I am at the verge of losing faith in the capacity of our system to deliver justice to the weak and vulnerable who are pitted against the powerful within the system itself,” the former staffer said in a press release.
The three-member in-house enquiry committee, comprising Justices SA Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, was established after the former Supreme Court staffer sent out a complaint letter with a sworn affidavit to 22 apex court judges describing her sexual harassment while working with CJI Gogoi and the subsequent persecution that she and her family members faced at the hands of the police.
Justice Bobde was appointed by CJI Gogoi himself to head the committee. In a press note released on behalf of the committee today, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Court said it had found no substance in the complaint and that it would not be making its findings public.
Disappointed and dejected
“I, the woman complainant, a former SC employee, am highly disappointed and dejected to learn that the In-House Committee “has found no substance” in my complaint and feel that gross injustice has been done to me as a woman citizen of India.
“I am now extremely scared and terrified because the in-house committee, despite having all material placed before them, appears to have given me no justice or protection and said nothing about the absolutely malafide dismissals and suspensions, indignities and humiliations suffered by me and my family. I and my family members remain vulnerable to the ongoing reprisals and attack,” she said.
She said she was alarmed at the conclusion arrived at by the in-house committee. “My accusation of sexual harassment at the workplace and the consequent relentless victimization and reprisals against me and my family, are substantiated by documents and are verifiable,” she said.
Concerns and reservations
The former Supreme Court employee had appeared before the committee on three different occasions and finally withdrew after her repeated requests for video recordings of the proceedings and to be allowed to be accompanied by a lawyer were turned down. The committee then proceeded to enquire into the matter ex parte and had CJI Gogoi appear before it on May 1, 2019.
“On 26.04.2019, I had joined proceedings of the In-House Committee and from the very beginning expressed serious concerns and reservations that the manner in which the proceedings were being conducted would not mitigate the stark asymmetry of power between me and the CJI.
“I had pointed out in my communication to the in-house committee that I needed to have my lawyer or support person present with me in the proceedings. I had also asked the committee to lay down the procedure that it would be following and also asked for the proceedings to be recorded so that there is no dispute about what transpired. However, none of this was done and I was not even supplied a copy of my statement as recorded by the committee until after I was forced to walk out from the proceedings on the 30th of April 2019.”
In the dark
She said she had learnt from the media that CJI Gogoi had been called by the committee to provide his version of the incidents. “However I am not aware whether any of the other persons named in my complaint who would have knowledge of matters mentioned in the complaint, especially my victimisation, were called by the committee for their evidence,” she said.
In her complaint letter and affidavit to the 22 Supreme Court judges, the former Supreme Court staffer had also mentioned that she had been taken by a policeman to meet the wife of CJI Gogoi, where she had been forced to fall at Mrs Gogoi’s feet and apologize.
“I do not even know whether the SHO who took me to the CJI’s residence to make me apologise to the CJIs wife in a humiliating manner, was called by the committee even though I had submitted a video recording of my interaction with him on that day. I do not even know whether the call records of the CJI or the Secretary-General were called for by the committee which would substantiate some of the facts mentioned in my complaint,” she said in the press release.
She also mentioned that on April 4, 2019, she had received a hard copy of her statements as recorded before the committee on April 26, 29 and 30. She had submitted corrections of some inaccuracies in her recorded statements, to the Supreme Court on May 4, 2019.
“…the Committee has announced that I will not even be provided a copy of the Report, and so I have no way of comprehending the reasons and basis for the summary dismissal of my complaint of sexual harassment and victimisation,” she said, adding that she would be consulting her lawyer to decide her next steps.
Read the press release here
Sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi: Justice Bobde committee finds no substance in the complaint