Allegations against CJI: Ex SC employee walks out of in-house inquiry panel proceedings
New Delhi, Apr 30: A former apex court employee, who levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, dubbed on Tuesday as "very frightening" the atmosphere of the in-house inquiry committee and "walked out" raising various objections including denial of her lawyer's presence.
She said she was also "scared of her safety" as she was followed by two to four men while returning from the proceedings.
The woman, who issued the press statement after participating in the proceedings for three days before the three-member panel headed by Justice S A Bobde, also expressed apprehension that she was "not likely to get justice" from the panel which not only refused her request for presence of lawyer Vrinda Grover during the proceedings but also told her if she did not participate "they would proceed ex-parte".
She said the panel, which comprised two women judges of the apex court -- Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee -- conducted the proceedings without video or audio recording and she was not even supplied with a copy of her statement recorded on April 26 and 29.
She claimed that the committee also did not inform about the procedure that was to be followed during the inquiry.
"I felt I was not likely to get justice from this committee and so I am no longer participating in the three-Judge Committee proceedings," she said, adding that the panel on Tuesday declined her request for summoning of Call Detail records and WhatsApp details of two relevant mobile numbers which made her helpless and distressed from participating before the panel.
"I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings today (Tuesday) because the committee seemed not to appreciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but was a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI and therefore it was required to adopt procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances that I am placed."
The woman said she had hoped that the approach of the committee towards her would be "sensitive" and not one that would cause her further fear, anxiety and trauma.
"I have not been informed if the committee has sought any response from the CJI to my complaint and I have been left guessing and anxious on all these matters," she further said.
The woman claimed that she was repeatedly asked by the committee as to why she made this complaint of sexual harassment so late.
"I found the atmosphere of the committee very frightening and I was very nervous because of being confronted and questioned by three Supreme Court Judges and without even the presence of my lawyer/support person," she said.
The former woman employee, who narrated the sequence of events since April 20 when her allegations against the CJI became public to the setting up of the panel and its proceedings for three days, said she joined the proceedings with a lot of hope.
"But due to serious concerns and reservations, I am no longer participating in these in-house committee proceedings. I joined and participated in the Committee proceedings in good faith on April 26 and 29, 2019 with the hope that this committee would proceed in a manner that is fair to me and sensitive to my circumstances," she said.
The woman said despite the fact that it was an in-house committee of sitting judges junior to the CJI and not an external committee as she had requested, she "joined the proceedings with a lot of hope considering that the committee comprised of such eminent judges".
"I felt that this committee will hear my sufferings and finally justice will be done to me and my family," she added.
The woman claimed that on April 19, she had made a detailed complaint of sexual harassment and victimisation against the Chief Justice of India by means of an affidavit dated April 18.
She said she had written to all the Judges of the Supreme Court to constitute a special enquiry committee of senior retired Judges of the apex court to enquire into her complaint of sexual harassment and the consequent victimisation.
"I did not think that any in house body or the committee constituted under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, would be able to fairly deal with my complaint, given the fact that the person against whom I had made the complaint was the Chief Justice of India. My complaint is in the public domain," she said in her press statement.
She also expressed dismay that the CJI on April 20 on Saturday, which was a court holiday constituted a special bench comprising of himself and two other judges and in that hearing levelled various allegations against her in her absence.
"Despite the fact that this was an in-house committee and not an external committee, I decided to participate in the proceedings. I, however, requested the committee to inform me about the procedure to be followed by the committee, to follow the requirements of the Vishakha guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Against Women at the Workplace Act, to allow me to have the assistance of a lawyer/support person of my choice and for video recording of the proceedings," she said.
"I had also pointed out to the committee that I had lost hearing in one ear completely due to stress and I was undergoing daily treatment for the same. As a result of this I was sometimes unable to hear what was being dictated by Justice Bobde to the court official as a record of my statements before the committee," she said adding she was orally instructed not to disclose anything to media.