Injustice Has Been Done To Complainant: Retd SC Judge Madan B Lokur on CJI Gogoi Sexual Harassment Case
He wrote in The Indian Express that the April 20 hearing was "extraordinary" as CJI Gogoi nominated himself as the presiding judge and "rubbished the allegations".
“It does appear that some injustice has been done to the staffer,” retired Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur wrote in an opinion piece for The Indian Express. He was referring to the complainant in the sexual harassment case against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Justice Lokur, along with CJI Gogoi, was among the four senior-most judges that held the historic press conference in January 2018, to raise concerns about the threat to the judiciary as an institution and Indian democracy as a whole.
In his article, Justice Lokur said that the April 20 hearing was “extraordinary” as CJI Gogoi nominated himself as the presiding judge and “rubbished the allegations”. He further wrote that the presence of the CJI on the Bench not being mentioned in the order was “unprecedented” and the misreporting of the case by journalists or Registry of the Supreme Court was “extremely serious”.
Highlighting institutional bias, Justice Lokur noted that Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) did not approve of the manner in which the complaint was dealt and requested for the “appointment of a committee by the Full Court to investigate and enquire into the allegations and give an independent finding”. Even the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) noted that the proceedings were not in conformity with the law, he wrote.
He further said that there is no provision of an in-house inquiry procedure related to the sexual harassment allegations levelled by the CJI. Hence, he calls the Justice SA Bobde-led committee, appointed by Gogoi to look into the matter on April 23, an “internal committee”. He also underlined that the decision was taken by Gogoi himself and not the “Full Court”.
Further, Lokur questioned why the “victimisation” allegation was not included in the mandate and only the “physical contact” issue was looked into by the committee. The complainant was allegedly dismissed from the service for being dissatisfied over frequent transfers and takings half-day casual leaves in an unauthorised manner. Further, her husband was suspended, her brother-in-law was dismissed from the Supreme Court and she was also arrested in an unrelated case. These are the instances of victimisation that were not looked into by the committee.
Justice Lokur recommended that Gogoi and senior-most judges of the Supreme Court should have accepted the Attorney General’s suggestion and formed an outside committee.
‘No decision made public’
Noting that the proceedings were informal, Justice Lokur wrote that the committee members should have been “magnanimous” and permitted a “support person” to the staffer in view of the “power imbalance” in the case.
He added that the report of the internal committee was submitted to the next most senior judge on or about May 6, but it was not made public. He said that it is not known if a separate committee will be formed to look into the victimisation allegations since “no substance” was found related to the “unwanted physical allegations” only. He also pointed out that declining a copy of the internal committee report by referring to a judgment in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India was “irrelevant”.