Reports stated that the Supreme Court-appointed three-judge in-house panel headed by Justice SA Bobde began proceedings on the sexual slur charges against the CJI and recorded the complainant’s statement for over two hours.
The panel, ratified by the full court, comprise Justices Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.
The proceedings took place at the top court’s guest house at Shahjahan Road in New Delhi, with a brief lunch break.
The complainant was accompanied by her counsel Vrinda Grover, sources said.
It is not known whether Grover was present when the complainant’s statement was recorded.
Justice Bobde, who has been given full teeth in context with the sexual harassment complaint, had clarified in the very beginning that in-camera proceedings did not permit an advocate’s presence.
Justice Indu Malhotra joined the panel after Justice NV Ramana recused himself from hearing the case after the complainant claimed he enjoyed “close proximity” with the CJI and might have prejudged the case in his public comments.
Justice Ramana has termed the complainant’s claim as “unfounded”.
The presence of two women judges in the panel went some way in addressing the complainant’s demand for an external woman member.
The sexual slur on the CJI is snowballing into a major issue with the SC directing a thorough probe by a former judge of the apex court AK Patnaik.
The top court has smelt a rat into the whole issue – it is suspecting that “fixers” are behind the sexual assault charges with an intent to defame the CJI.
It is to be seen whether the three-judge panel on the administrative side will permit the complainant to take Grover’s assistance.
Justice Patnaik has been given a free hand to take assistance from the CBI, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Delhi Police to probe the alleged presence of bench-fixers in court and the alleged conspiracy to defame the CJI.
The originally constituted panel of Justices Bobde, Ramana and Banerjee, in its first sitting, had issued notice to the complainant as well as SC secretary general Sanjeev Kalgaonkar, asking the latter to remain present with official records about the various departments where the complainant was posted from 2014 till 2018, when she was dismissed from service after a disciplinary inquiry.
Kalgaonkar did come with the official records, but, he was kept away from the proceedings. The panel will resume proceedings on Monday afternoon.
In her letter to the panel, the complainant wrote that she was feeling “fearful and intimidated” as the bench led by the CJI had passed remarks suggesting “there is more to it than meets the eye” vis-à-vis the sexual slur against Ranjan Gogoi.
She also pointed to finance minister Arun Jaitley “stoutly supporting” the CJI. She said she felt she had been defamed without being heard.
The original panel was reconstituted after Justice Ramana cited “extraordinary circumstances” to recuse himself from the panel.
Justice Ramana has pooh-poohed the complainant’s allegations that he was “close” to the CJI.
He said he was recusing from the panel to “send a message to the nation that there should be no fear about probity in our institution (Supreme Court), and that we will not refrain from going to any extent to protect the trust reposed in us”.