Complainant in CJI harassment case withdrew appeal in one day
The former Supreme Court employee who levelled charges of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi filed an appeal against her termination on July 11 before the apex court’s Registrar, but abruptly withdrew it the very next day, HT has learnt. However, she has retained the right to re-file the appeal.
The withdrawal came after the intervention of a top government functionary, who called the former SC employee and her husband for a meeting at his residence. “They were told everything would be sorted out and they should not tarnish the image of the country by focussing attention on the case,” an aide to the complainant said.
The 36-year-old employee, who was posted at the home office of the CJI, detailed charges of sexual harassment and persecution in an affidavit that was sent to 22 judges of the apex court on April 19. In the affidavit, she also stated that her husband and his brother, both with the Delhi Police, were suspended from service soon after her termination from the Supreme Court in December 2018.
According to the affidavit, the CJI behaved inappropriately with her twice, on October 10 and 11, 2018. According to the same affidavit, the CJI’s behaviour “changed dramatically” after she resisted his advances and then began what she calls, her “persecution.”
Interestingly, her husband and brother-in-law were both re-instated in June even though the departmental inquiry against them has not been completed. The woman’s husband was suspended for allegedly calling the CJI’s office, and the brother-in-law for allegedly concealing a 2015 police complaint against him over unruly behaviour.
The reinstatement orders came after an earlier meeting with the same top government functionary, HT has learnt. The complainant and her lawyers were not available for comment.
The complainant was transferred out of the CJI’s home office on October 22 and was posted in the Centre for Research and Planning. On November 16, her seat was changed to the Admn Material section.
The complainant applied for leave on November 17, to attend a function in the school of her eight-year-old daughter, but was advised to work after the function. “Since the school function went on till 12.15 pm, I could not report to work, it being a Saturday and hence half day. I however kept updating my supervisor regarding the delay at my child’s school and inability to attend work on that day,” she said in the affidavit.
Disciplinary action was initiated soon after: she was issued a memorandum on November 19, telling her that she had rendered herself liable for action under the provisions of the Conduct Rules. She replied three days later to state that she had applied for casual leave. On the same day, she was transferred once again, this time to the Library Division.
The complainant was served with a suspension order on November 27 and informed that disciplinary proceedings were being contemplated against her.
An inquiry was initiated against the complainant under the Supreme Court Officers and Servants (Condition of Service and Conduct) Rules, 1961, for “questioning the decision of senior officers and thereby acting in a manner prejudicial to discipline,” and for “unauthorisedly absenting herself from duty on November 17.”
The employee denied all charges in her reply on December 6. She was to appear before the inquiry committee on December 17 but fainted outside the inquiry room. A report from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital of the same day was annexed to the affidavit the complainant sent to the 22 Supreme Court judges. The medical report confirmed that she was “brought unconscious” to the hospital by the court staff.
The very next day, the complainant received a communication from the Registrar, Admn, that the departmental enquiry, which was conducted in her absence, found there was merit in the charges levelled against her.
The complainant was dismissed from service on December 21.
According to a member of her legal team, “the charges against her are not grave and do not warrant dismissal from service.”
When the news first broke in April, Gogoi alleged a conspiracy. “This is unbelievable. I should not stoop low even in denying it… There has to be a bigger, bigger force behind this,” he said after the complainant’s affidavit was made public.
The Supreme Court set up a committee headed by former judge AK Patnaik, to probe the conspiracy angle, but the status of this panel’s investigation isn’t known. Another committee, comprising three sitting judges of the apex court, found no merit in the complainant’s allegations. The findings were neither made public nor shared with the complainant, who walked out of the panel’s proceedings.