India’s Supreme Court yesterday held an extraordinary hearing after a former employee of the apex court accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment and persecution.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Gogoi was constituted after a sworn affidavit filed by the woman was made public. Copies of the affidavit were sent to the residences of 22 apex court judges.
During the hearing in CJI’s court, Justice Gogoi said the allegations were unbelievable.
“This is unbelievable. I don’t think I should stoop low even to deny this allegation,” he said, adding “there has to be bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate the office of CJI.”
The apex court registry in a notice earlier in the day said a three-bench headed by the CJI was being set up to deal with a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”. The bench also comprised justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna.
In her affidavit, the former employee has described two incidents of alleged molestation by Justice Gogoi, both of which allegedly took place in October 2018, only days after he was appointed as the CJI.
Confirming that a letter by the woman has been received by several sitting judges, Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said all the allegations made by the woman concerned are malafide and have no basis.
Stating that it was leaving it to the wisdom of the media to act responsibly on allegations of sexual harassment against Justice Gogoi, the top court said the independence of the judiciary is under “very, very severe” threat.
“After 20 years of selfless service as judge, I have bank balance of Rs 6.80 lakh and a provident fund of Rs 40 lakh ,” Justice Gogoi said.
“Nobody can catch me on money, people have to find something and they have found this. This is the reward CJI gets after 20 years of service,” said Justice Gogoi.
He made it clear that he would preside over the CJI court and discharge his judicial functions without any fear.
“I have taken this unusual and extraordinary step of sitting in court today because things have gone too far,” he said adding “the judiciary can’t be made a scapegoat.”
Meanwhile, a court in Delhi today said it would hear on April 24 a police plea to cancel the bail of the former woman employee of the Supreme Court, who has accused Gogoi of sexual misconduct, in a cheating and criminal intimidation case.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Manish Khurana listed the matter for Wednesday as the accused woman was not served with the copy of the police’s plea.
The police sought cancellation of the bail granted to the woman on March 12 after the complainant claimed that he was being threatened by the former Supreme Court staffer and her associates.
An FIR for the alleged offences of cheating, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy was lodged against the woman on March 3, after a complaint was filed by Naveen Kumar, a resident of Jhajjar in Haryana, at the Tilak Marg Police Station in Delhi.
In a separate development, the Bar Council of India condemned the “false and cooked-up” sexual harassment allegations against justice Ranjan Gogoi and said the entire bar was standing with the CJI, and against this “attempt to malign the institution”.