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Ex-SC staffer accuses Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, CJI refutes charges, says 'conspiracy against judiciary'

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said, in an urgent Supreme Court hearing on Saturday morning, that charges of sexual harassment against him will be examined by other senior judges and not by himself and labelled the allegations as a threat to judiciary and "a conspiracy" against it. The session was convened following charges of sexual harassment levelled against the CJI by a former SC staffer, who sent a signed affidavit to all 22 judges of the court, alleging that she was harassed by Gogoi in October.

A bench was hurriedly constituted after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentioned online media reports of a sexual harassment complaint made by a former junior assistant of Justice Gogoi's before a Supreme Court official on Saturday. The woman had sent an affidavit to all 22 judges of the court on 19 April, 2019. The alleged incident occurred in October 2018. The woman, in her affidavit, said she has since been dismissed from service and claimed to have faced harassment on several other fronts.

 Ex-SC staffer accuses Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, CJI refutes charges, says conspiracy against judiciary

File photo of Justice Ranjan Gogoi. PTI

The registry came out with the notice that a special bench has been constituted to deal with the "matter of great public importance" touching upon the independence of the judiciary. The special bench comprising Gogoi and Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjeev Khanna sat at 10.30 am.

During the hearing in CJI's court No 1, Gogoi said the allegations are unbelievable. He also said the independence of the judiciary was under "very, very serious threat" and there is a "larger conspiracy" to destabilise the judiciary.

"This is unbelievable. I don't think I should stoop low even to deny these allegations," he said, adding, "There has to be a bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate the office of CJI."

Confirming that a letter by the woman has been received by several sitting judges, Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said all the allegations made by the woman concerned are malafide and have no basis. "No doubt, it is a malafide allegation," he said.

Stating that the court was leaving it to the wisdom of media to act responsibly on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, the court said the independence of judiciary is under "very, very severe" threat.

"After 20 years of selfless service as judge, I have bank balance of Rs 6.80 lakh," he said. "Nobody can catch me on money, people have to find something and they have found this: This is the reward CJI gets after 20 years of service," Gogoi added.  He made it clear that he will preside over the CJI court and discharge his judicial functions without any fear.

"I have taken this unusual and extraordinary step of sitting in court today because things have gone too far," he said.

CNN News18 legal editor Utkarsh Anand, reporting from the court, tweeted that Gogoi noted having been "extremely hurt" by the allegation. "My peon has more assets and money than me," Gogoi also said.

"Good people will never become judges if this is how they are targeted. There's nothing more valuable than honour for me. And I had to constitute this bench to say this from the highest seat," Gogoi was reported saying.

Anand also tweeted the reply by the Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar to four media houses on behalf of Gogoi.

"The allegations regarding 11 October 2018, as well as other allegations as can be discerned from your emails, are completely and absolutely false and scurrilous and are totally denied," Kalgaonkar wrote in the reply.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2019 13:54:47 IST