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Woman seeks CJI clean-chit report

Treated as an outsider, I haven’t been informed of my rights, the former SC staffer claimed

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 8.05.19, 5:43 AM
  • Updated 8.05.19, 5:43 AM
  • 2 mins read
The committee was set up through a full court decision to have such an “in-house” mechanism to deal with the allegations (Shutterstock)

The former woman Supreme Court employee who has alleged sexual harassment by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has written to the three-judge in-house panel seeking a copy of the inquiry report that had on May 5 exonerated him.

In the letter addressed to the panel of Justices S.A. Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, the woman has taken exception to the committee’s decision not to make public the report, arguing that as a victim she was entitled to access to it under Section 13 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Although under the section, the purported victim and the accused are entitled to copies of the inquiry report, the three-judge panel was not constituted under the Act. The committee was set up through a full court decision to have such an “in-house” mechanism to deal with the allegations.

The woman has said in the letter circulated to the media through the office of advocate Prashant Bhushan that as Justice Gogoi had been given a copy of the report by the panel, she too was entitled to one. Excerpts from her letter:

“I am shocked that Committee has come to an adverse finding against me despite the fact that I was compelled to withdraw from the Committee since the Committee did not observe even the most basic principles of natural justice.

“From the beginning I have been treated as an outsider, I have not been informed of the procedure, I have not been informed of my basic rights and obligations with regard to the inquiry proceedings.

“From the beginning there has been a lack of transparency in the functioning of the Committee and great prejudice is being caused to me repeatedly. While in the first notice received from the committee and in the first hearing, despite repeatedly asking the Committee, I was not given any clarity on whether the present proceedings are in-house proceedings or not.

“However, the in-house proceeding rules are now being used to deny me and the public a right to the report. …. The Secretary Generals press note states that a copy of the report will not be made public because of the Supreme Court judgement in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India & Anr.

“It appears from the press release that even I, the complainant, will not be provided with a copy of the report. I have a right to the report, the reasons for the same as well as copies of the depositions of any witnesses, any other persons or any other evidence considered by the Committee.

“Besides this, as is being reported by the media, if a copy of the report is being given to the CJI directly or indirectly, I am entitled to a copy thereof in any case. I find it rather strange that the complainant in a case of sexual harassment is not to be provided with a copy of the report which finds her complaint to be without substance and that my complaint has been held by the committee to be this without giving me any reasons for the same.

“The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 in Section 13 provides that both parties have a right to receive a copy of the Report. Not providing a copy to the complainant while holding her complaint to be unfounded would be a violation of the principles of natural justice and a complete travesty of justice.”

A group of women activists on Tuesday morning organised a demonstration with placards outside the Supreme Court premises to protest against the panel’s decision to give a clean chit to Justice Gogoi.

The protesters were whisked away to Tilak Marg police station for violating Section 144 CrPC (prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons).

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