Sexual Harassment & the CJI

In Re : Matter of Great Public Importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary

The court will determine the veracity of the sexual harassment allegations against the Chief Justice of India.

Decided

Parties

Respondent:

Lawyers: K.K. Venugopal; Tushar Mehta

Case Details

Case Number: SMWP (1) 1/2019

Next Hearing:

Last Updated: May 6, 2019

Key Issues

1

Do the sexual harassment allegations infringe upon the independence of the judiciary?

2

Did this hearing prejudice the panel conducting the in-house inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations?

Case Description

A 3 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court will examine the claims made by Advocate Utsav Bains. He claims that the allegations made by a former Junior Officer of the Court alleging sexual harassment by the Chief Justice of India are fabricated and motivated by a larger conspiracy to undermine the independence of the judiciary by corporate persons and corrupt political leaders.

On April 19th 2019, a former junior Court Officer alleged that she was sexually harassed by the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. She submitted documents substantiating her claims and wrote a letter to 22 other Supreme Court Justices.

On April 20th Gogoi CJI called a special hearing and denied the allegations. Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna sat with him on the Bench. No judicial orders were passed and the Chief Justice stepped aside.

On April 23rd a Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta began hearing the matter. They issued notice to the lawyer Utsav Bains to appear in-person. On 24 April, Mr. Bains appeared in-person before the Court and submitted an affidavit in a sealed cover.

On April 25th, the Bench directed retired Justice AK Patnaik to conduct an inquiry into the alleged conspiracy. He was assisted by the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Delhi Police Commissioner. Justice AK Patnaik will submit a report in a sealed cover to the Bench, documenting his findings.

Simultaneous to these hearings, the Supreme Court has formed an in-house panel to conduct an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. While the AK Patnaik inquiry is specifically focusing on the conspiracy allegations,  the in-house panel has limited its inquiry to the sexual harassment allegations. The in-house panel comprised Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana and Indira Banerjee. On 25 April, Ramana J recused himself from the panel, after the complainant expressed her objections to him being included on the panel. She cited Justice Ramana J’s close friendship with the Chief Justice. He was replaced by Justice Indu Malhotra.

On April 30th, the complainant withdrew from the in-house inquiry. She cited various reasons, including:

  1. Complainant not allowed the presence of her lawyer during proceedings
  2. No video/audio recordings allowed during proceedings
  3. Complainant not informed about the Committee’s procedure

On February 18th 2021, the three-judge bench led by Justice Kaul disposed of the matter. He noted that electronic evidence is difficult to recover after nearly two years. And the committee headed by CJI Bobde regarding the sexual harassment charges had already given its report.