Justice Malhotra inducted to panel to inquire harassment charge against CJI
Justice Indu Malhotra has been inducted as the second woman member of the committee set up to look into allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Justice Malhotra replaces Justice NV Ramana who had, hours earlier, withdrawn from the panel after the complainant questioned his presence in the committee.
In a letter to the judges, the former court staffer had described Justice NV Ramana as a close friend and a frequent visitor to Chief Justice Gogoi’s residence. “Because of this, I fear that my affidavit and evidence will not receive an objective and fair hearing,” she wrote.
Justice Ramana, in his letter conveying his decision to exit the committee, rejected the charge that he wouldn’t have been impartial. But he underlined, according to PTI, that he wanted to exit the committee because justice must not only be done but also appear to have been done.
The former court staffer had also pointed to the Supreme Court guidelines in the Vishaka judgment that requires a committee inquiring into sexual harassment allegations to have a majority of women.
Justice Indu Malhotra’s induction will also help meet this condition imposed by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka verdict.
The three-member panel, headed by Justice SA Bobde, already has Justice Indira Banerjee as a member. Justice Indu Malhotra was the country’s first woman lawyer to be directly elevated as a Supreme Court judge last year. She would be the second woman member of the 3-judge committee.
The change comes hours before the three committee members are slated to meet a little after Friday noon.
This would be their first meeting to look into the allegations that have triggered concerns
Chief Justice Gogoi has denied the allegations and insisted that this appeared to be part of an effort to “deactivate the office of Chief Justice”.
After a lawyer claimed that there was a “conspiracy against the Chief Justice to force him to resign and to threaten every judge of the Supreme Court”, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday appointed retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik to inquire into this claim. The intelligence bureau, CBI and Delhi Police have been ordered to assist Justice Patnaik to get to the root of the alleged conspiracy.