On Friday, April 19, a former female employee in Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s office accused him of sexual assault and workplace harassment. However, on Saturday, after the CJI presided over a suo motu hearing on the allegations against himself, the country’s citizens and lawyers mounted severe in criticism that the CJI has unfairly tried to be a judge in his own case.
Yesterday, on April 22, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), an organisation with over 6,000 SC lawyers, held an emergency meeting and passed a resolution saying that the CJI has violated the legal procedure by hearing a case against himself.
“The Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association in its emergent meeting has resolve that procedure adopted for conducting the Court proceedings on 20.04.2019 in the matter of allegations against the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India is in violation of procedure established by law as well as principles of natural justice”, said the SCBA.
The SCBA has asked the Supreme Court to take necessary action to ensure that all material related to the case are gathered so that an unprejudiced inquiry against the CJI may be conducted.
The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) has also asked for a probe into the allegations stating that the CJI conducting a suo motu hearing— an exercise of authority without formal need— was “procedural impropriety”.
SCAORA says, “The allegations of the ex employee of the Supreme Court have to be dealt with as per the established procedure of law and the law must be applied in each and every case uniformly.”
SCAORA has called for a full-scale, independent inquiry.
Utsav Bains’ affidavit claims “conspiracy” against CJI Gogoi
However, the case has further complicated after SC Advocate Utsav Bains submitted an affidavit stating that Gogoi is being framed in a “conspiracy”.
Bains claims to have been approached by an unknown person named Ajay, who identified himself as a relative of the accuser, and asked Bains to take on the case pro-bono. Bains says that Ajay’s sequence of events did not add up.
“… when the said Ajay further narrated the entire sequence of events and facts of the case, the Deponent [Bains] was not convinced and found several loopholes in the said Ajay’s version of events”, said Bains in his affidavit.
Bains adds that Ajay was neither upfront about his relation to the accuser nor “prepared” to bring her to his office or connect her to him for questioning.
Bains says Ajay’s ambiguity made him refuse to represent the accuser pro-bono.
“It was then that the said Ajay changed his track suddenly and from a request for a pro-bono representation, directly offered the Deponent a bribe of Rs 50 lakh to represent the said complainant and also to organise a press conference”, said Bains in the affidavit.
Bains said he also refused the bribe, but was offered Rs 1.5 crore in response. He adds that “reliable sources” anonymously told him that people who CJI Gogoi has ruled against were trying to fabricate these allegations.
These people are allegedly “fixers”, including one named Romesh Sharma, who teamed up with a “disgruntled employee” to lie about the sexual assault allegations and pressure Gogoi to resign.
Bains made more allegations: that Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal tried to bribe the CJI and enlisted Sharma to “fix” cases in favour of the airline and that Sharma was introduced to Goyal via terrorist Dawood Ibrahim who has also invested in the airline.
Bains also says that he’s been informed that he might be murdered in a planned road accident, poisoned or implicated in a false rape case to ruin his reputation. However, he is refusing to divulge his sources or speak to the media.
Bains also called for an independent judicial inquiry into the matter.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi accused of sexual assault
On Friday, a former female employee of CJI Gogoi submitted an affidavit to 22 judges alleging that she was sexually assaulted in his office and harassed outside it. She also said that after she resisted Gogoi’s advances, her family was also targeted.
She said that leading up to the molestation, Gogoi had her transferred to his office and repeatedly called her outside office hours. She alleges that he insisted that she delete all records of their correspondence from her phone and checked to ensure she had complied.
The day of the assault, she says he forcefully hugged her, ran her hands over his body, and asked her to “hold him”. In her affidavit, she says after she was forced to push Gogoi away, he hit his head on a cabinet.
After molesting her, Gogoi threatened her to stay silent. He apparently arranged for her to be shuffled through various SC departments and, later, fired for insubordination, she says.
She adds that she was arrested on a false bribery case so the police could intimidate her. While in police custody, she says she was kicked, handcuffed, and verbally abused. Her husband and brother, who work with the Delhi police, were suspended from their jobs.
“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.
On Monday, April 22, the Bar Council of India (BCI) put its full weight behind Gogoi and said the allegations were “false and cooked up”. However, yesterday, the SC is holding a hearing on the charges against Gogoi.
The three-judge bench led by Justice Bobde will comprise of Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman, and Deepak Gupta. It will also consider an affidavit signed by Bains stating his claims. Although the former employee who brought the accusations is a woman, there is no female judge on the bench.
Gogoi said he will not step down and shall continue to perform his duties as the allegations against him are heard.
The day the news broke, SC lawyer Karuna Nundy said, “What has happened today is extremely serious and it is of course unprecedented. It’s a crisis but it’s also a real opportunity to set up a mechanism where, if a junior court assistant is harassed by the chief justice of india or if an intern is harassed by a Supreme Court judge, then there is that confidence that the young person, has as a citizen, that bodily integrity means as much as anyone else’s.”
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.