Reports quoted him as saying, “A bigger force appears to be behind a conspiracy to destabilise the judiciary and unsettle me ahead of important cases next week.”
After four web portals – Wire, Leaflet, Caravan and Sroll – published almost a Kafkaesque account of the former Supreme Court woman employee’s sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi – Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the court to “take cognisance of the matter”.
The Solicitor General said the whole issue was of “great public importance” and requested CJI Gogoi-headed special bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna to pay “heed to the matter”.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi fumed, “If this (the allegations) was just reward for a person who has selflessly served as a judge of the constitutional court and is going to retire with a bank balance of Rs 6.8 lakh and a career-long PF accumulation of Rs 40-odd lakh? I would not stoop so low to even deny the charges.”
The CJI has smelt a rat in the whole sexual harassment allegations as important cases are lined up for hearing next week – the CJI-led bench is scheduled to hear BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi’s petition seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for allegedly distorting the apex court’s last order on Rafale controversy.
The next case up for hearing is a challenge to the Election Commission (EC) ban on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biopic; and a petition alleging large-scale bribing of voters in Tamil Nadu to seek deferment of elections in the state.
Ranjan Gogoi said that he was “honest to the bone” and enjoyed a “clean and incorruptible” image hence the sexual slur against him – “Nobody can catch me on money part, so they found this to damage my reputation and destabilise the judiciary. From the questions sent by the portals, there appears to be a common thread between them.”
He further stated, “I don’t think a junior court assistant is behind this. Two offices are absolutely independent, that of PM and CJI. They want to destabilise the CJI considering the important cases coming up for hearing next week in the election month.”
He added, “The independence of judiciary is under severe threat. If the judges are to be vilified like this, why would any good person want to become a judge? Who will want to become a judge and retire with a bank balance of Rs 6.8 lakh,” he questioned.
A firm CJI remarked, “Regardless of what has happened, I will decide cases in the rest of my tenure of seven months. Nobody can stop me.” He, however, recused himself from passing orders on the issue mentioned by the Solicitor General.
Mishra and Khanna 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 the judiciary.”
During the hearing, Tushar Mehta, Attorney General KK Venugopal and Supreme Court Bar Association president and senior advocate Rakesh Khanna were present, and they were unanimous in their views that the sexual harassment allegation was an “attack on the independence of judiciary and part of a concerted design to malign and destabilise the judiciary”.
In an affidavit to 22 SC judges – the dismissed woman employee mentioned that she lost her job for spurning Gogoi’s sexual advances towards her and the fallout thereafter – her husband and brother-in-law – both of whom serve as constables in Delhi Police – suspended; and she herself being taken into police custody for a day.
Filled with anger and anguish, the CJI remarked, “All I would say is this particular employee was in the CJI’s residential office from August 27 till October 22 in 2018. The incident she alleges is of October 11. On October 12 and 13, my principal secretary informed the secretary general (the administrative head of SC) in writing complaining about the inappropriate behaviour of this lady.”
Gogoi added, “Then her husband made unsolicited calls to the CJI’s office seeking my help to put the lady back in service and help him in getting reinstated in service as he was under suspension pending departmental action. The lady has a criminal background. Two FIRs were of 2011. In one case, the Delhi Police gave clean chit. In the other, she was warned and asked to maintain good behaviour.”
He further remarked, “There is another case against her for allegedly demanding
Rs 50,000 from a person on the assurance that she would land him a job in SC. A criminal case is pending against her husband as well.”