New Delhi: Over 300 lawyers, scholars and members of the civil society have written an open letter to the Supreme Court judges, expressing solidarity with the complainant who has levelled sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The letter comes a day after CJI Gogoi appeared before a three-judge panel, led by Justice S.A. Bobde, to look into the accusations. A day before that, the complainant refused to participate in the in-house committee proceedings to look into the charges, saying the atmosphere was “frightening”.
The in-house committee Wednesday took the decision to continue the proceedings without her participation, following which a notice was sent to the CJI. Gogoi responded to it.
The letter, signed by 333 persons, submitted Thursday that the inquiry panel deligitimised itself when it decided to continue the proceedings after her refusal to participate in the probe.
“If the committee continues to proceed with the enquiry (sic) instead of satisfactorily concluding the matter it will raise many more questions,” it read.
In a show of support to the former apex court staffer who complained against the top judge, the letter said the reasons given in her statement “justify her decision to abstain, especially in the context of total imbalance of power vis-a-vis her on one side and the members of highest judiciary on the other”.
“We reiterate that the constitution of the three-judge committee is inherently flawed, as the Chief Justice is senior to the three judges hearing the complaint and head of the institution.”
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The 35-year-old woman pulled out of the proceedings Tuesday, claiming the atmosphere of the three-judge committee was “frightening”, and her lawyer was not allowed to attend.
The signatories called upon the judges to take “corrective steps” and “put a halt to these proceedings”. If the SC judges fail to do so, “not only the complainant, but also the citizens of this country, especially women and marginalised sections, will lose faith in the judicial system”, it said.
The signatories suggested that a special inquiry panel be formed comprising “credible individuals” to conduct a thorough inquiry at the earliest. This must also include an “atmosphere of transparency and confidence for the complainant to depose”.
The Chief Justice of India should refrain from transacting official duties and responsibilities until the completion of the inquiry. Further, the complainant must be allowed to be represented by a lawyer/support person of her choice, added the letter.
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