Complainant against CJI Gogoi set to file appeal — to the CJI
An 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.
The former Supreme Court staffer who levelled charges of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi will soon be filing an appeal, to the CJI himself, against her dismissal from the apex court.
“The complainant will be filing an appeal to Gogoi himself,’’ her lawyer and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said. “The appeal [mechanism] is available under the service rules.”
The 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. According to the affidavit, the CJI behaved inappropriately with her twice, on October 10 and 11, 2018. The CJI has denied the charges and called them an attack on the judiciary. In the affidavit, the complainant said the CJI’s behaviour “changed dramatically” after she resisted his advances and then began what she called her “persecution”. She 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 (Administrative) Material Section.
The 36-year-old complainant applied for leave the following day (Nov 17), to attend a function at the school of her 8-yearold daughter, but was advised to work after the function. “Since the school function went on till 12.15, 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 provisions of the Conduct Rules. She replied three days later to state that she had applied for a casual leave but on the same day, was transferred once again, 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 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,” after being shifted to Admn Materials Section and for “unauthorisedly absenting herself from duty on November 17”.
The employee denied all charges in a 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 had been “brought unconscious” to the hospital by court staff.
The next day, the complainant received a communication from the registrar, Administration, that a departmental enquiry had been conducted against her and that the charges levelled against her had been proven.
The complainant was dismissed from service on December 21. “The charges against her are not grave and do not warrant dismissal from service,” a member of her legal team said.
The Supreme Court set up a three-member in-house panel to probe the charges of sexual harassment levelled by her and on May 6 concluded that “there was no substance” to her complaint.
Earlier, on April 25, the Supreme Court appointed former judge, AK Patnaik to probe whether there was a conspiracy against the CJI. Utsav Bains, a lawyer, had alleged that former staffers of the court and corporate entities had ganged up against Gogoi to frame him in a false case. Patnaik will be assisted by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau.
On April 21, soon after the contents of the affidavit became public, Gogoi convened a special bench of the Supreme Court and called the allegations of sexual harassment “an attack on the independence of the judiciary.” He also said there was an attempt to “destabilise the office of the CJI.”
In an interview to this paper last week, the woman employee had said she was not part of any conspiracy and that she respected the institution she had been a part of. “The affidavit is the truth of my life,” she said.
The complainant is also facing charges of cheating filed by a Haryana resident alleging that she took an advance of ₹50,000 on the promise that she would help get him a job in the Supreme Court as a class IV employee. In her affidavit, the complainant gave details of how she was being harassed by the police but had managed to get bail from a trial court. Soon after the allegations of sexual harassment became public, the Delhi Police moved the trial court for her bail to be cancelled. The next hearing is on May 23.
Now that the woman employee will appeal against her dismissal directly to Gogoi, “let us see how he deals with it,” the member of the legal team cited above said on condition of anonymity.