A storm of public opinion is gathering against the manner in which a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi convened on April 20 and suo motu heard a case involving sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by a former Supreme Court employee.
The Bench was convened at short notice after online news portals published allegations levelled by a woman against the CJI. The hearing sparked a public debate on whether the CJI was sitting as a “judge in his own cause” and whether the Bench should have followed the principles of natural justice by giving the complainant a fair chance to be heard in the first place before passing remarks about her.
On Monday, the first working day after a tumultuous weekend, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), a body of over 6,000 lawyers practising in the Supreme Court, said Saturday’s hearing was “in violation of the procedure established by as well as the principles of natural justice.” In an urgent meeting, the executive committee of the SCBA said a Full Court should take “all the necessary steps” under the law in this issue.
“The allegations of the ex-employee have to be dealt with as per the procedure established by law. The law must be applied in each and every case uniformly,” SCAORA resolved.
The association said it “strongly disapproves the manner in which the complaint was dealt with”. It urged for an inquiry and action into the woman’s complaint. She has already written to 22 Supreme Court judges, detailing her allegations against the CJI.
The association sought an “immediate appointment of a committee headed by the Full Court of Supreme Court to impartially investigate and inquire into the allegations against CJI and give an independent finding into the matter”.
The Women in Criminal Law Association (WCLA), a collaborative group for women in criminal litigation, had also issued a statement demanding a fair inquiry into the allegations. In a statement on April 20, the association said the “complaint should be treated as per procedure and principles of fairness and justice, including the fundamental right to equality before law”.
However, the Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association issued a statement “on behalf of all employees” strongly condemning the “false, fabricated and baseless allegations” against the Chief Justice.
The employees association said the allegations were meant to malign the institution. The association said it stood firmly with the CJI to “defeat the malicious attempt of external forces to target the Indian judiciary”.