Though the head of judiciary Ranjan Gogoi has strongly denied the sexual harassment allegations against him, but the same is not going to die down soon.
Experts are wondering what could be the procedure for dealing with complaints alleging criminal misconduct against a judge of the constitutional court or even the CJI.
Reports stated that the Gender Sensitisation and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Regulations nor the committee set up can do little to help the dismissed junior court assistant who has levelled sexual harassment charges against Assam-born Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.
The reason being the panel does not have the mandate to deal with a complaint against a judge of the SC, much less the CJI, who nominates a SC judge to head the committee which deals with complaints of sexual harassment.
The in-house inquiry mechanism too is of little help as it talks about complaints received by the CJI against judges and the procedure to conduct inquiry into the complaint.
But in both the gender sensitisation committee and the in-house mechanism, there is no provision as to what should be the procedure for a complaint against the CJI. There is also no proper mechanism as to what a judge should do when such a complaint is filed.
All said and done, but with successive CJIs – Justices Dipak Misra and Ranjan Gogoi – facing different level of accusations, at the end of the day it is the image of the judiciary that is getting dented.
CJI Gogoi led the bench of three judges who were asked by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to reply on the junior court assistant’s allegations.
Questions are being asked in some quarters as to how a person against whom the complaint was made by the dismissed woman junior court assistant could preside over a bench and then recuse when the time came to dictate orders.
Applying the procedure applicable to commoners would mean that anyone facing a sexual harassment charge must immediately cease and desist from discharging the duties he is statutorily or constitutionally tasked with. This would create a situation where it would be difficult for the highest constitutional functionaries to carry on with their duties.
Keeping this in mind, the SC in Veeraswamy case had ruled that constitutional court judges will enjoy immunity from instant registration of FIRs when a complaint accuses them of committing a criminal act under IPC or Prevention of Corruption Act, even though it clarified that judges are public servants.
However, the SC in Veeraswamy case had provided a mechanism to deal with criminal complaints against judges of constitutional courts as well as the CJI. It had said, “In order to protect a judge from frivolous prosecution and unnecessary harassment, the President will consult the CJI who will consider all the materials placed before him and tender his advice to the President for giving sanction to launch prosecution or for filing FIR against the judge concerned after being satisfied in the matter. The President shall act in accordance with the advice given by the CJI.”