Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in #MeToo Quicksand
- A former junior court assistant in Supreme Court has accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment at workplace
- The woman sent an affidavit to all 22 Judges of the Supreme Court on 19th April attaching her narration of the incident
- The Supreme Court held an urgent hearing on 20th April where Justice Gogoi denied the allegations and claimed a larger conspiracy against him
- A bench will look into the matter which will be investigated by other Judges and not by Justice Gogoi
India’s top judge, CJI Ranjan Gogoi has been accused of sexual harassment at workplace.
The complainant against Gogoi is a junior court assistant who worked in Gogoi’s court and later was relocated to his home office. Gogoi is the 46th Chief Justice of India, having been appointed on 3rd October 2018. His tenure runs till 17th November, 2019.
The women’s complaint alleges the incident took place a week after Gogoi’s appointment as the Chief Justice.
The biggest alleged workplace sexual harassment case in History
The woman who is the alleged victim said the incident took place when she was working as a junior assistant at Justice Gogoi’s office at his residence. In her affidavit, she referred to two incidents over subsequent days, 10th and 11th October 2018.
The Junior Court Assistant has alleged that Justice Gogoi expected a ‘quid pro quo’ transaction, after helping her brother-in-law get a job at the Supreme Court. The affidavit also alleges apparent influence that Justice Gogoi used to get her relative appointed, who wasn’t medically fit but was still cleared.
— Utkarsh Anand (@utkarsh_aanand) April 20, 2019
The junior court assistant was
suspended from her duties on November 27, pending an inquiry on three charges including questioning official orders, trying to influence decision-making and taking leave without approval.
She has accused Justice Gogoi, saying the top judge used his influence to make her life miserable. Her affidavit notes that at least three of her relatives lost their government jobs due to the incident.
The victim’s narrative of the incident
The junior assistant sent a signed affidavit to all 22 judges of the Supreme Court on 19th April 2019 narrating her side of the incident. The alleged indecent propositioning started on December 10th when she was thanking the CJI for helping her relative get a job.
In her words:
“The CJI asked me to come and stand next to him, he got up from his chair. The CJI then asked me, ‘What can you do for me?’, I kept repeating that I was very grateful and that everybody in my family was very happy.”
“The CJI then slid his hand from the back of my head, along my back to my hipline, till my lower back. I immediately froze and my body stiffened. I think the CJI sensed this, and so he immediately pulled both my cheeks, like one would do to a child. He told me that he is like this with his daughter too.”
In the second incident from the next day, 11th October, she wrote:
“He hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and did not let go. He told me ‘hold me’, he did not let go of me despite the fact that I froze and tried to get out of his embrace by stiffening and moving my body away.”
Her affidavit mentions she was shunned by Justice Gogoi from the next day. It was after this that problems grew and reached her family. After 3 transfers in a month, she was suspended from the Supreme Court.
Alleged picture of the woman and her husband with Justice Gogoi at his residence on October 2, 2018 | Credits: Scroll.in
He husband and two brothers-in-law have also lost their jobs since then, which she alleges are linked to the incident.
Justice Gogoi labelled the allegations as a threat to judiciary
In an urgent Supreme Court hearing on Saturday morning, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi denied the charges of sexual harassment against him. He also said the charges will be examined by a panel of senior judges without his involvement.
A special bench constituting of Justice Gogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna was commissioned to look into the matter. The letter deemed it as a matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary.
A three Judge Bench to have a special siting Today at 10.30am to deal with a matter of ‘great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary’. pic.twitter.com/yqYFsoWcxn
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 20, 2019
A larger conspiracy is being hatched?
“There is a bigger force behind the woman who made sexual harassment charges,”.
Earlier, the SC Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar had rejected the accusations as malafide and holding no basis. He had sent an email to four media houses on behalf of the Chief Justice, which had asked a response to the allegations.
Kalgaonkar had written:
“The allegations regarding 11 October 2018, as well as other allegations as can be discerned from your emails, are completely and absolutely false and scurrilous and are totally denied.”
Gogoi had alleged a Crisis in the Supreme Court in 2018
Ranjan Gogoi is the first Chief Justice belonging to the Northeast part of the country.
He is one of the Judges who called the famous Supreme Court press conference (first such in history) on 12 January 2018, alleging problems plaguing the Supreme Court, failure in the justice delivery system and allocation of cases.
It remains to be seen if Justice Gogoi’s claim of a larger conspiracy being hatched is in relation to the press conference of 2018.
- The junior assistant’s affidavit mentions that after the incidents, Justice Gogoi ended all contact with her
- She had been working in Gogoi’s court for two years and was one of his favourite employees, as per her letter
- The alleged victim has said that at least three of her relatives lost their jobs after the incident
- A special bench constituting of Justice Gogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna has been commissioned to look into the matter