On Friday, April 19, a former female employee of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi presented an affidavit before 22 Supreme Court judges accusing Gogoi of sexual harassment. The employee alleges that Gogoi molested her and subsequently harassed her family by getting them fired and arrested.
22 Supreme Court judges, along with Union Minister Rajnath Singh and Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik, were aware of Gogoi’s actions. The latter two likely knew earlier in January.
The allegations were first reported by The Caravan, The Wire, Scroll, and The Leaflet.
The former employee joined the Supreme Court in 2014 to work as a typist and librarian. She also worked for individual judges until October 2016, when she was slated to workin Gogoi’s court. She is currently in her mid-thirties.
She was also studying for a law degree and scheduled to take LLB exams in 2018.
She says she and her family were harassed and physically tortured after she rebuffed Gogoi’s sexual advances.
“It now seems like the harassment, victimisation, and torture will not stop unless I speak out about the origin and motive for the harassment… now there is an imminent danger to my life that I am compelled to speak the whole truth, in order to save myself and my family”, she said.
CJI molests former employee
In the affidavit, the employee recounts two incidents where Gogoi molested her. These incidents took place days after Gogoi was appointed to the post of CJI in October 2018.
She says that after his promotion, Gogoi “took a special interest in her professional and personal life”. He also ordered her transfer to his residential office on Tees January Marg.
Before she was assigned to Gogoi, she worked with individual judges who gave her good reviews on her work performance. Gogoi himself complimented her on her work and request her assistance with research.
Gogoi then invited to work at his residence office and arranged the transfer after speaking with her supervisor, BA Rao.
“She said that a senior staff member had told her that she should feel proud because this was the first time in the registry that a person at her level was appointed at such a position”, writes The Caravan.
While working at this office, she said that Gogoi asked her to delete any proof of their interaction from her phone and checked to ensure she complied.
He would her during off-hours several times in a day, send her “good morning” messages, and ask if she reached home once she left the office. He even facilitated her brother’s appointment as an attendant in his court after he was struggling to find employment due to a disability.
During this time, she alleges that he touched her without her consent. She said he ran his hand down her head to her lower back, pulled her cheeks, and reassured her that he behaves like this with his own daughter.
The next day, he asked her what she could do for him in return after he did her the favour of employing her brother. She presented a thank you note that she wrote the day before.
However, he walked over to her, put his arms around her waist and said that he wanted “this” from her. He then pushed his body against hers, touched her all over, and asked her to “hold him”.
“I was forced to push him away with my hands”, she says and describes him hitting his head on a cabinet nearby.
Arrest and torture by police
She adds that Gogoi behaved in a high-handed manner even after he sexually assaulted her. He tried to silence her from speaking out against him by threatening her and transferring her to different departments in the SC.
She was shuffled three times in the month following the incidents. In November 2018, she was involved in disciplinary hearings because she was apparently showed “insubordination, lack of devotion to duty and indiscipline” when she took leave on a Saturday.
She also said that a member of the Delhi Police took her to Gogoi’s residence to apologise to wife.
“I have been victimised for resisting and refusing the unwanted sexual advances of the CJI and my entire family has also been victimised and harassed due to that”, she said.
The employee says her family was targeted with “consistent persecution”. Her husband and brother who worked with the Delhi Police were both suspended from work.
“I say that the CJI has misused his position, office and authority and abused his clout and power to influence the police”, she said in the affidavit.
In March, Haryana resident Naveen Kumar lodged an FIR against the former employee for accepting bribes. She said in her affidavit that the FIR is “false, malicious and premeditated to harass and terrorise me and my family”.
She adds that her family has been burdened with financial troubles following the “frivolous” legal cases filed against them.
In police custody, she describes being handcuffed to a bench, kicked, and verbally abused. She was also sent to Tihar jail, but was granted bail on March 12.
Her hearing was scheduled for today, April 20.
SC responds to allegations
This former employee presented the affidavit before 22 judges of the Supreme Court. She also sent them copies of videos where Gogoi can be seen committing the acts she has described.
The Caravan said it reached out the Gogoi, but the SC Secretary General responded in his place denying the allegations and calling them “false and scurrilous”.
On Saturday, the Bar Council of India (BCI) held a meeting to condemn the allegations against Gogoi claiming they are “false and cooked-up”.
The BCI and other justices and organisations like the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Bar Association added that the accusations intend to malign the institution, reports The Wire.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President and Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said an in-house inquiry should be conducted to get to the truth.
However, in the special meeting, the SC did not offer the option. A three-judge bench that included Gogoi said that the independence of the judiciary was threatened by these “unscrupulous allegations”.
Gogoi, who led the special hearing on allegations against himself, said that “the judiciary will not be made a scapegoat” as a judge’s reputation is of utmost importance to them.
To display his victimhood, Gogoi added that he only has Rs. 6.8 lakh in his bank balance and these allegations are the “reward a Chief Justice of India gets after 20 years”.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta urged Gogoi to allow him to register formal proceedings, but Gogoi did not agree stating that the court did not “want to do anything like that now”.
Supreme Court Advocate Karuna Nundy said that regular due process applies to these allegations, as well. This means that the Supreme Court’s Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) needs to decide how to proceed.
“In a case like this though perhaps an open court hearing – preserving the anonymity & dignity of complainant – would provide the transparency for justice to be done & seen to be done”, said Nundy on Twitter.
She adds that the allegations should have gone directly to the senior-most judges because the CJI should not decide how to process allegations against him.
The three-judge bench also asked the media to exercise restraint in its reportage. The BCI will convene again on Sunday to pass a resolution that expresses solidarity with Gogoi.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius