SC panel probing CJI case holds three-hour hearing
A three-member committee of justice SA Bobde, justice Indira Banerjee and justice Indu Malhotra of the Supreme Court resumed its inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and met the complainant on Monday for the second time since last week.
The proceedings were held behind closed doors.
According to people familiar with the matter, the complainant appeared before the panel at 4.30 pm and the inquiry by the judges lasted for three hours.
The proceedings, which largely dealt with the complainant’s version of events, could not be completed on Monday. The hearing will continue on Tuesday.
The inquiry proceedings began on Friday last week; on that occasion too, the judges met the complainant for over three hours.
No one except the complainant has been allowed to appear before the panel, even though last week an attempt was made by the complainant’s advocate to help her in the ongoing proceedings.
A decision to conduct an internal inquiry into the allegations against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was taken on April 23, after a full court resolution was passed to the effect.
CJI Gogoi has distanced himself in the matter and all the decisions with regard to the committee and its proceedings are being taken by justice Bobde, who is the second senior most judge in the Supreme Court and is expected to take over as the Chief Justice after Gogoi’s retirement in November.
On Thursday last week, a change in the committee’s composition was made after justice NV Ramana recused himself from being a part of the inquiry panel. Justice Indu Malhotra replaced him on the committee .
The recusal came in the backdrop of a letter written by the complainant to the members of the committee expressing concern over his presence on the committee.“I would humbly submit that since I was posted in the CJI’s residence office, I know that justice N V Ramana is a close friend of the CJI and is like a family member to him. Justice Ramana is a frequent visitor to the residence of the CJI. Because of this I fear that my affidavit and evidence will not receive an objective and fair hearing,” she wrote.
Withdrawing himself from the committee, justice Ramana said in a letter addressed to justice Bobde, said: “My decision to recuse is only based on an intent to avoid any suspicion that this institution will not conduct itself in keeping with the highest standards of judicial propriety and wisdom. It is the extraordinary nature of the complaint, and the evolving circumstances and discourse that underly my decision to recuse and not the grounds cited by the complainant per se. Let my recusal be a clear message to the nation that there should be no fears about probity in our institution, and that we will not refrain from going to any extent to protect the trust reposed in us. That is, after all, our final source of moral strength.”
This move by the Supreme Court to hold an inquiry into the allegations of a former apex court staffer came after the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCORA) called for the appointment of a panel to investigate the allegations.