Conspiracy to deactivate CJI: Gogoi says about sexual harassment charge
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Saturday denied allegations of sexual advances levelled against him by a dismissed Supreme Court employee, linking the charge to “bigger forces” and the upcoming “sensitive cases” he is to hear.
“There are forces that are trying to destabilise the judiciary. There are bigger forces behind these allegations hurled at me,” he told a court session, convened hurriedly after two news portals, the website of a magazine and an online legal platform reported the allegations.
“I want to tell the citizens of this country that today, the judiciary is under a serious threat,” the Chief Justice said at one point, explaining why he had convened a special sitting.
“There has to be a bigger, bigger force behind this. There are two offices — one of the Prime Minister and one of the CJI. They (people behind this controversy) want to deactivate the office of the CJI,” PTI quoted Justice Gogoi as saying.
Justice Gogoi was flanked by Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna at the special hearing, attended by attorney-general K.K. Venugopal, solicitor-general Tushar Mehta and Supreme Court Bar Association president Rakesh Khanna.
“Allegations are being hurled against me because I am hearing sensitive cases next week. I will not give in. I have seven months of service left to hear and decide cases,” the Chief Justice said in a brief, emotional address.
He did not spell out the cases he had in mind. Sources said the politically significant cases coming up included those relating to the review of the Rafale verdict, the contempt plea against Rahul Gandhi, the poll-time ban on the Narendra Modi biopic, the Ayodhya land dispute and the Assam NRC update.
Justice Gogoi said he would continue to discharge his duties without fear or favour.
The court refrained from passing any judicial order after the special sitting but left it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint.
Signed by Justices Mishra and Khanna, the day’s order said: “Having considered the matter, we refrain from passing any judicial order at this moment leaving it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of judiciary.
“We would therefore at this juncture leave it to the media to take off such material which is undesirable.”
On Saturday night, the report was visible on four online platforms — The Wire, Scroll, The Caravan and The Leaflet. The Wire said journalists from the first three sites, which are news outlets, had reported the story together.
On Thursday, the sacked woman employee had written to all the Supreme Court judges barring the Chief Justice, airing the harassment charge. The junior court assistant had been dismissed last December on charges of insubordination and bribery.
The woman has denied the allegations.
She has tied the harassment charges with the alleged victimisation of her husband and brother-in-law, both policemen in Delhi, who she says were suspended in November in connection with a seven-year-old criminal case.
“Why do you think a person decides to become a judge? To lose his reputation?” Justice Gogoi asked.
“Reputation is all that matters for a judge. If that is also under attack, I wonder what is left. This (allegation) is unbelievable. I should not stoop low even in denying it.”
Justice Gogoi said his total bank balance was just Rs 6.8 lakh and that he had around Rs 40 lakh in his Provident Fund account.
“They (his detractors) cannot catch me on money, so they have brought this up. This is the reward a Chief Justice of India gets after 20 years and a bank balance of Rs 6.8 lakh. I must say that the independence of the judiciary is under a very, very serious threat.”
Justice Mishra said: “These are all wild and baseless allegations. We are not passing any gag order on the media but we request the media to observe some restraint.”
Solicitor-general Mehta sought permission to bring contempt charges against the victim and certain media houses for “all that rubbish”.
“The matter must be taken up very, very, seriously,” Mehta said.
Venugopal said action should be taken against the media houses that had reported the allegations as they had violated all canons of ethics and confidentiality. The court did not order any action.
Justice Khanna said: “This type of baseless allegations and publications shackles judicial independence.”