All is not well with CJI case

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All is not well in the CJI sexual harassment case  as a section of the Supreme Court judges have advised the panel inquiring the sexual harassment case against the CJI not to proceed with the inquiry without having complainant on board.

The complainant withdrew from the inquiry alleging hostility of the panel and refusal of lawyer’s help during the conduct of inquiry besides non availability of the transcripts of the day’s proceedings.

A sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Justice DY Chandrachud, has asked the in-house panel probing allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to not proceed with the inquiry “ex parte”, The Indian Express has learnt.

Justice Chandrachud, accompanied by Justice Rohintan Nariman, met the inquiry panel comprising Justices S A Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee on Friday, where the two judges believed to have discussed their concerns about the ongoing probe with the panel.

On May 2, Justice Chandrachud wrote to the three judges in the probe panel that the credibility of the Supreme Court would be further damaged if they decided to continue with the probe in the absence of the complainant, who has withdrawn from the inquiry.

He also suggested that the committee could either accede to the complainant’s ‘equest to provide her with a lawyer or appoint an amicus curiae for the probe.

The inquiry committee had decided to proceed “ex parte” or carry on in her absence after the complainant declared that she was withdrawing from the probe.

This decision was taken by the three judges on April 30 when the complainant said that she was “compelled to walk out” because the judges who are part of the panel did not seem to appreciate the fact that “this was not an ordinary complaint but was a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI” and refused to allow a lawyer or support person to accompany her during her deposition.

The complainant, after two sittings, lasting about three hours each, chose to withdraw during the third sitting and told the committee about her decision to do so. The three judges are said to have told her they were left with no choice but to continue with the proceedings ex parte. On Wednesday, CJI Gogoi appeared before the probe panel.

The complainant, in a letter to the committee, and in a press release on Tuesday, said that she found the committee intimidating. And that there was a need to adopt a “procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances” she said she was placed in. “I had hoped that the approach of the committee towards me would be sensitive and not one that would cause me further fear, anxiety and trauma,” she added.

In her 28-page original complaint, the woman had alleged that on October 10 and October 11, 2018, the CJI had made sexual advances in his home office, where she was posted, and touched her inappropriately.

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