Published: 22nd April 2019
DU law students 'shocked' by CJI's handling of sexual harassment charge, demand another enquiry
The Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar has dismissed all the allegations against the CJI and said that they are malafide and have no basis
The students of the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi have released a statement on Monday raising deep concern at the manner in which the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, and the apex court have responded to the grave and serious charges of sexual harassment by a woman, who was formerly a junior court assistant. The students have also demanded that a Special Enquiry Committee comprising retired SC Judges be set up to inquire into the complaint of sexual harassment against the CJI.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Gogoi himself was constituted after a sworn affidavit by the woman — copies of which were sent to the residences of 22 apex court judges — became public on Saturday. The complainant stated on the affidavit that she was sexually harassed by Gogoi, and as a consequence of rebuffing his advances, she and her family were subjected to victimisation, false cases, and even custodial torture by the police. She also alleged that she was made to perform humiliating acts such as apologise by rubbing her nose on the ground before Justice Gogoi’s wife.
Confirming that several sitting judges had received the letter, Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said all her allegations against the CJI are malafide and have no basis. "No doubt, it is a malafide allegation," Sudhakar has said.
According to the law students at DU, this response by the apex court poses grave concerns in the interests of justice for women and the integrity of our judiciary. "The correct response would have been for the senior-most judge after the CJI to take cognisance of the complaint and set up an independent enquiry panel comprising retired Judges of the Supreme Court — as requested by the complainant. Instead the CJI called a special hearing, based on a mention by the Solicitor General, and from the Bench of the Supreme Court, proceeded to proclaim his innocence, malign the complainant, falsely alleging that she had 'criminal antecedents', and rubbish the entire complaint as a threat to the independence of the judiciary. The Attorney General who was present, as well as the Solicitor General, and the other judges on the Bench all participated in this spectacle of maligning the complainant in the country’s apex court," says Kawalpreet Kaur, currently a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University and Delhi President of All India Student's Association (AISA).
The students have also said that a strangely worded order (signed only by Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna in spite of the fact that Justice Gogoi had also been present on the Bench) hinted that the media portals that had published the story should consider withdrawing it, saying they "leave it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of judiciary." The law students have demanded that this order suggesting that the media should take down stories on this case be withdrawn as it is deeply inappropriate.
"By using the authority of the Supreme Court to brand a sexual harassment complaint malafide, malign the complainant, and declare the accused innocent, the CJI and the apex court have sent a very wrong message to society and to women. A sexual harassment complaint against a sitting judge should not be construed as a 'threat to the judiciary’s independence' as Justice Gogoi and his brother judges and the country’s Solicitor General and Attorney General have done. Judges cannot be allowed to enjoy immunity from sexual harassment complaints. Instead, a transparent, free, and fair process is needed to enquire into such complaints. Instead of taking this opportunity to set a high standard for such enquiries, the CJI and the SC have instead set the poorest possible example," adds Kawalpreet.