New Delhi: The former Supreme Court employee who accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment said she will no longer participate in the proceedings of the internal committee formed to look into her complaint.
“I found the atmosphere of the committee very frightening and I was very nervous because of being confronted and questioned by three Supreme Court Judges and without even the presence of my lawyer/support person,” the woman said in her statement to the press.
The complainant’s decision comes on the third day of the inquiry proceedings. In her statement, she said she was compelled to walk out of the proceedings Tuesday because the committee did not seem to appreciate the fact that this was no ordinary complaint — this was a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI, and therefore, it was required to adopt a procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances 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 drama,” the 35-year-old former employee said.
“I felt I was not likely to get justice from this committee, and so I am no longer participating in the three-judge committee proceedings,” she added.
Two weeks ago, the former apex court staffer had submitted an affidavit to the sitting judges of the top court alleging that she was sexually harassed by CJI Gogoi while she was posted at his residence. However, a day after the allegations became public, CJI Gogoi assembled a special bench Saturday, 20 April, and dismissed all allegations against him.
Last week, the Supreme Court constituted an in-house committee to look into allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Gogoi. The committee is headed by Justice S.A. Bobde — the second senior-most judge at the apex court, and includes Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. Justice Malhotra replaced Justice N.V. Ramana, who recused himself after the complainant accused him of being a close personal friend of the CJI.
The panel met the complainant last Friday, Monday and Tuesday.
This is not the first time the ex-employee has complained about the unusual procedure adopted to look into her complaint. Despite the fact that the panel was not constituted as per the Vishakha Guidelines or the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act) Act (‘POSH Act’), she joined the proceedings “in good faith”.
However, she said she was not allowed to bring her lawyer while the proceedings were on. She also objected to there being no video or audio recording of the proceedings, as well as her claim that she has not been apprised of the procedure that the inquiry committee has adopted to look into her complaint, nor has she been supplied with a copy of her statements as recorded till now.
“I have not been informed if the committee has sought any response from the CJI to my complaint and I have been left guessing and anxious on all these matters,” she said.
The former employee claimed her request for call details of the number through which she interacted with the CJI were also not called for. “The same application was finally taken by the committee on 30 April 2019, when feeling helpless and distressed I could no longer continue to participate in the committee hearings,” she said.
The woman submitted that due to stress she is suffering from impaired hearing in one ear.
“As a result of this, I was sometimes unable to hear what was being dictated by Hon’ble Justice Bobde to the court official as a record of my statements before the committee. Further, the committee declined my request for video recording of the committee proceedings. I was also clearly told that no lawyer/support person could be present with me during the committee hearing. I was orally instructed that I should not disclose the proceedings of the committee to the media and was to not even share the proceedings with my lawyer, advocate Vrinda Grover,” she said.
The woman claimed that following the conclusion of the proceedings, she was being followed “by two men on a motorcycle whose partial number” she was able to note.
She has repeatedly requested the proceedings to be treated as a formal inquiry and not a departmental one. But her requests, so far, have not been heeded.