New Delhi: In a curious turnaround, the former Supreme Court employee, who had accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, has walked out of the inquiry being conducted by an in-house panel of three judges, lamenting that she was unlikely to get any justice. Her abrupt withdrawal came after the panel, headed by Justice SA Bobde, held its third in-chamber sitting on Monday.
“I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings because the committee seemed not to appreciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI and therefore the panel was required to adopt a procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances that I am placed in,” she was quoted as saying.
In the hearings held so far, the woman said she felt intimidated and nervous, as she had to appear alone and her lawyer was not a part of the proceedings. She also happens to have a hearing impairment, it is claimed.
‘‘The atmosphere was very frightening and I was very nervous on being confronted and questioned by the three Supreme Court Judges, and that too in the absence of my lawyer,” she said, adding, ‘‘I was repeatedly asked by the committee as to why I had made this complaint of sexual harassment so late.’’She said she was also “scared of her safety” as she was shadowed by two to four men while returning home from the proceedings.
She also pointed out that there was no video or audio recording of the committee proceedings and she was not given even a copy of her statements during the first two sittings; nor was she informed about the procedure of the committee. She was denied a lawyer and told if she did not participate “they would proceed ex parte”. On April 23, Justice Bobde had said that the in-house procedure would not involve advocates as it was not a formal judicial proceeding.
The woman said she had hoped that the approach of the committee towards her would be “sensitive” and not one that would cause her further fear, anxiety and trauma. “I have not been informed if the committee has sought any response from the CJI to my complaint and I have been left guessing and anxious on all these matters,” she further said.
The woman had worked at Justice Gogoi’s home office in Delhi and the allegations were reported by four news portals based on her affidavit, which was sent to 22 judges of the top court.In her affidavit, the woman described two incidents of alleged harassment, days after Justice Gogoi was appointed CJI last October. The woman had alleged that she was removed from service after she rebuffed Gogoi’s “sexual advances”.
She further claimed that her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom were head constables, were suspended for a 2012 criminal case that had been mutually resolved. Chief Justice Gogoi has denied the allegations, saying he is being targeted as he is slated to hear several important cases shortly. Alleging a conspiracy, he had said that the independence of the judiciary was under threat and he was being made a “scapegoat.”