CJI Gogoi, The Onus Is On You To Ensure The Supreme Court Remains A Safe Space For Justice

Posted: April 21, 2019

Yet another allegation of sexual harassment against a Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi begs the question – will this top judiciary body remain the safe space it should be to demand justice?

A former junior court assistant at the Supreme Court of India in an affidavit on Friday, April 19, wrote to 22 judges of the apex court making allegations of sexual harassment by the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi at his residence office on October 10 and 11, 2018.

The apex court had a special hearing on Saturday to deal with a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary”.  This ex-employee also alleged that she was subjected to vendetta and persecution after that.

During the hearing in CJI’s court No. 1 today Justice Gogoi denied the allegations. “This is unbelievable. I don’t think I should stoop low even to deny these allegations,” he said, adding, “There has to be bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate the office of CJI.”

The Court also called upon “the wisdom of media to act responsibly on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI”. Amidst the ironic situation where the accused CJI shall preside over the court and is expected to discharge his judicial functions without fear or prejudice, this isn’t the first time sexual harassment has been a topic of concern at the highest judicial body of India.

In 2013, former Supreme Court judge Ashok Kumar Ganguly was accused by a woman intern on charges of sexual harassment and later in 2014 another former Supreme Court Judge Swatanter Kumar was accused of sexual harassment by a woman law student.

In 2016 India’s first woman additional solicitor-general and the first-ever woman to become senior advocate in the Bombay High Court, Indira Jaisingh, had also made allegations of being sexual harassed in the precincts of the Supreme Court but without naming anyone or pointing to any specific incident.

It is an open secret that just like all other institutions in our country, our judiciary isn’t an enabling or safe space for women and has displayed its sexist and misogynist tendencies often, whether it is in the form of rampant sexist remarks and stands regarding disputed matters like a law against marital rape or in various instances of sexual crimes.

In the light of such allegations Indian women are bound to scrutinise their equal legal rights in this democracy and feel threatened as some of the institutions that are meant to defend these rights seem to be encroaching on them.

The secretary general of the Supreme Court of India has called the recent allegations false, scurrilous and totally denied these. The statement went on to say that the woman and her family had criminal antecedents. The Lok Sabha elections are on in India in phases and in such a politically charged environment in all likelihood the undue politicisation of such a sensitive and shocking sexual harassment case is also likely.

Though this matter is now sub-judice, it has once again highlighted the lack of transparency in some of the highest institutions that we have. The Supreme Court which is undoubtedly one of India’s most vital public institutions must act in a manner to restore the faith of its common people in the judiciary and the justice system.

Update (6th May 2019)

A three-member in-house enquiry committee of the Supreme Court, has found no substance in the complaint of sexual harassment made by a former Supreme Court employee against the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. The committee consisting of Justices S.A Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra through a note released to the public by the Secretary General of the Supreme Court, said the findings of the report would be not be made public.

Image source: YouTube

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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