New Delhi: The Bar Council of India (BCI) has opined that there was "something fishy" in the sexual harassment allegations levelled by a former employee of the Supreme Court against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.
In a statement directed to members of legal fraternity, judges and people of the country, the BCI claimed that there was some very strong support behind the complaint against the CJI.
"The common man of the country is not a fool. Mass was/is realising that there was/is some very strong backing/support behind the complaint against Chief Justice of India and complainant was/is not at all a simple lady," the BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra stated on Monday.
Throwing light on the incident, the BCI said, "If you examine the complaint and the annexures and see the way facts are narrated; the manner in which she claims to have recorded everything in her mobile while at the police station, and the way she has been dealing with the police, courts, CBI, IB, everyone; if one analyses these things carefully, you will find something fishy."
The council further said that one should not doubt the decision of three-judge in-house committee of the Supreme Court, which on Monday gave a clean chit to CJI Gogoi in the sexual harassment complaint allegation against him.
"The committee made the decision after examining the materials and everything carefully; it has adopted the right procedure, which was required in this case. We should not doubt the decision of our three judges of the committee, otherwise, it will send a very wrong signal, and there shall be no end to such malicious complaints against the responsible authorities/persons discharging important functions," the BCI said.
It further informed that the complainant did not opt to lodge an FIR against the CJI in the matter.
"Before questioning the validity of the probe by the in-house committee of three judges, we should not forget that the lady (complainant) had approached and lodged her complaint to the judges of Supreme Court only; she did not opt to lodge a complaint or FIR. She herself chose this forum and the judges decided to hold an in-house inquiry on her complaint. Even the Supreme Court Bar Association had proposed to hold an in-house inquiry," the BCI said.
The three-judge committee constituted to probe the allegations of sexual harassment made by the complainant against the CJI cleared him of the charges. The committee concluded that there is no substance in the allegations of the former employee of the Supreme Court.
As the news broke and set off a storm about the complaint, the chief justice convened an extraordinary sitting of a bench headed by him and called the allegations a big conspiracy against him. The bench also passed remarks debunking the complainant.
Later, the court constituted a three-member committee consisting justices Bobde, NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Justice Ramana recused from being a part of the committee after the complainant sought his recusal saying he was close to the CJI. Justice Indu Malhotra replaced Ramana.
However, the constitution of the committee came under criticism, with a number of jurists and lawyers, including women's advocates, saying the probe panel was not in accordance with the Visakha Guidelines propounded by the apex court on the basis of which parliament had also passed a law.
While the Supreme Court has an in-house procedure to deal with complaints, it has neither precedent of nor a provision for dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment against the CJI.
Meanwhile, the woman complainant appeared before the three-judge panel and later walked out of it saying she was denied assistance of a lawyer or a "support person" to help her present her case as she was not a legal expert.
With the procedure adopted by the committee attracting criticism, Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court wrote to the judges in the full court to "remedy all the grievances" that led the complainant to withdraw from the probe on 30 April.
On Sunday, the secretary-general of the Supreme Court denied that Justice Chandrachud along with Justice Rohinton F Nariman had met Justice Bobde to make the demand. However, he did not deny that Justice Chandrachud had written to all the judges in the full court.
The woman who came out with the allegation a fortnight ago said her complaint was in the form of an affidavit sent by her to the judges of the Supreme Court on 19 April. "I am alarmed at the conclusion arrived at by the in-house committee, as my accusation of sexual harassment at the workplace and the consequent relentless victimisation and reprisals against me and my family are substantiated by documents and are verifiable."
She said on 26 April she had joined proceedings of the in-house committee and from the very beginning expressed serious concerns and reservations "that the manner in which the proceedings were being conducted would not mitigate the stark asymmetry of power between me and the CJI".
"On 4 May, 2019, around 8 pm, I received a hard copy of my statements recorded before the in-house committee on 26, 29 and 30 April. On 6 May, around 10.30 am, I submitted corrections of some inaccuracies in my recorded statements to the concerned registrar at the Supreme Court."
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Updated Date: May 07, 2019 10:04:42 IST