New Delhi: The Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) Monday expressed its “deep reservation” against the procedural impropriety shown by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi after he responded to allegations of sexual harassment against him.
On Saturday, CJI Gogoi decided to sit on the bench and address the sexual harassment charges against him, drawing sharp criticism from various quarters.
His move came a day after a 35-year-old former staffer, who worked as a junior court assistant in the Supreme Court, wrote to 22 SC judges, alleging that the CJI had sexually harassed her at his residence last year.
In a statement, the association said, “The allegations of the Ex-Employee of the Supreme Court have to be dealt with as per the established procedure of law and law must be applied in each and every case uniformly.”
It also expressed disapproval over the manner in which the complaint was dealt with and sought an inquiry and action in the above matter. It sought an immediate appointment of a committee headed by full court of the Supreme Court to impartially probe and inquire into the allegations.
The SCAORA move came hours after the top court staff issued a statement in support of the chief justice.
“The Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association on behalf of all employees strongly condemn the false, fabricated and baseless allegations against the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Shri Ranjan Gogoi,” the resolution read.
“Such unscrupulous allegations are aimed at maligning the Institution. The Association reaffirms its pledge to work vigorously to strengthen its august institution.”
“In this hour of time, the entire staff is united and stands firmly with the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India to defeat the malicious attempt of external forces to target the Indian Judiciary,” it added.
‘Independence of judiciary’
In the hours since the allegations first surfaced, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the National Green Tribunal Bar Association have condemned the allegations against the top judge.
CJI Gogoi Saturday denied the sexual harassment charges, suggesting that vested interests were threatening the independence of the judiciary.
In an extraordinary hearing Saturday, the CJI said, “There are two offices that are absolutely independent…The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and that of the Chief Justice of India. They want to deactivate this (the CJI) considering the sensitive cases lined up next week. And the elections.”
‘Travesty of justice’
In an open letter to the BCI, several advocates pointed out that the “manner in which the Supreme Court dealt with the allegations of sexual harassment made against the sitting Chief Justice of India (CJI Ranjan Gogoi) by a former woman employee of the Supreme Court deeply undermines the foundations of our Constitution and flies in the face of the rule of law”.
Instead of constituting an “In-House Committee” to look into the allegations, “the CJI, in exercise of his administrative powers, constituted a “special” Bench of his choosing (including himself) to respond to the allegations.”
“What ensued on Saturday (April 20) morning in the Supreme Court is nothing short of a travesty of justice,” added the letter.