New Delhi: A three-judge in-house Committee of the Supreme Court on Monday gave a clean chit to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in the sexual harassment complaint allegation levelled against him by a former court staffer who said she was not just highly disappointed and dejected but felt "gross injustice" has been done to her.
"The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint dated 19.04.2019 of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India."
"Please take note that in case of Indira Jaising vs. Supreme Court of India and Anr file SCC494, 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," the Supreme Court Secretary-General said in a notice.
The notice also said that the Committee submitted its report on Sunday in accordance with the In-House procedure to the next senior most judge competent to receive the report and also sent a copy to the judge concerned namely the Chief Justice of India.
Reacting strongly to the clean chit given to the CJI, the woman complainant said she would consult a lawyer and decide on the next step. "Today, I am at the verge of losing faith in the idea of justice."
"I, the woman complainant, a former SC employee, am not just highly disappointed and dejected to learn that the in-house committee 'has found no substance' in my complaint, but feel that gross injustice has been done to me as a woman citizen of India," she said.
"I am now extremely scared and terrified because the in-house committee, despite having all material placed before them, has 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 added.
The report of the In-House Committee consisting of Justices SA Bobde, Indra Banerjee and Indu Malhotra seeks to bring the curtains down on the controversy that broke out more than a fortnight ago when a former woman court staffer who had worked in the home office of the CJI had complained to the judges of the Supreme Court that Justice Gogoi had made sexual advances to her.
"Today, my worst fears have come true, and all hope of justice and redress from the highest court of the land have been shattered. In fact, the committee has announced that I will not even be provided with 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 victimization."
The woman said she had already placed her earlier communications with the committee in the public domain through media on April 30 when she was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings as it had refused to accept even her most basic request for a fair hearing.
As the news broke and set off a storm, the Chief Justice called an extraordinary sitting of a bench headed by him and called the allegations a big conspiracy against him. The bench also passed remarks debunking the complainant.
Later, the court constituted a three-member Committee consisting of Justices Bobde, NV Ramana and Indra Banerjee. Justice Ramana recused from being a part of the committee after the complainant sought his recusal saying he was close the CJI. Justice Indu Malhotra replaced Ramana.
However, the constitution of the committee came under criticism with a number of jurists and lawyer including women advocates saying the probe panel was not in accordance with the Visakha guidelines propounded by the apex court on the basis of which parliament had also passed a law.
While the SC has an in-house procedure for dealing with complaints, it has no precedent of nor a provision for dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment against the CJI.
Meanwhile, the woman complainant appeared before the three-judge panel and later walked out of it saying she was denied assistance of a lawyer or a "support person" to help her in presenting her case as she was not a legal person.
With the procedure adopted by the Committee attracting criticism, Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court wrote to the judges in the Full Court to "remedy all the grievances" which led the woman complainant to withdraw from the probe on April 30.
On Sunday, the Secretary-General denied that Justice Chandrachud along with Justice Rohinton F Nariman had met Justice Bobde to make the demand. However, he did not deny that Justice Chandrachud had written to all the judges in the Full Court.
The woman who came out with the allegation a fortnight ago said her complaint was in the form of an affidavit sent by her to the judges of the SC on April 19. "I am alarmed at the conclusion arrived at by the in-house Committee, as 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 on April 26 she 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."
"On 4th May 2019, at about 8 pm I received a hard copy of my statements recorded before the In House Committee on 26th, 29th and 30th April 2019. On 6th May 2019, at around 10.30 am, I submitted corrections of some inaccuracies in my recorded statements, to the concerned registrar at the Supreme Court."