Editor's note: This article, originally published on 24 April, 2019, had profiles of the three judges who comprised the panel picked by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi conducting an inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against himself. The panel had originally included Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee. On 25 April, however, Justice Ramana recused himself and was replaced by Justice Indu Malhotra. The article has been updated and republished to incorporate this change.
Justice SA Bobde, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, was one of the three judges appointed to conduct an in-house inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against Gogoi. Justice Bobde told PTI that he had decided to constitute a panel with two apex court judges, NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee.
"I decided to have Justice Ramana in the panel as he is next to me in seniority and Justice Banerjee, as she is a woman judge," Justice Bobde said. The first hearing will be conducted on Friday and the apex court secretary general has also been asked to be ready with all documents and materials. Supreme Court judge Indu Malhotra was Thursday appointed as a new member of the panel, following the recusal of Justice NV Ramana.
This is the first time that a sitting Chief Justice of India has been accused of sexual harassment, and consequently the first time that such a panel has been formed to look into such a charge. The judges will, thus, have to prioritise distance from the power hierarchy of the institution they serve and also from the party levelling the allegation which has already been labelled by Gogoi as "unbelievable."
Here is a brief introduction to the three.
Justice SA Bobde
Supreme Court judge Sharad Arvind Bobde is next in line to become the Chief Justice. A former Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Bobde is currently serving as the chancellor of Mumbai's Maharashtra National Law University and Nagpur's Maharashtra National Law University.
Bobde got his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law degrees from Nagpur University and was enrolled on the Bar Council of Maharashtra in 1978. He practised at the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court for more than 21 years. Designated as a senior advocate in 1998, Bobde was elevated as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court in 2000. He was sworn in as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court in 2012 and elevated to the Supreme Court in 2013.
He was part of a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, along with Jasti Chelameswar, and Chokkalingam Nagappan, which significantly clarified in 2015 that no Indian citizen without an Aadhaar card can be deprived of government services and subsidies.
In 2017, Bobde was part of the two-judge bench with Justice L Nageswara Rao which rejected a 37-year-old woman's plea seeking termination of her 23-week-old foetus fearing genetic disorder.
He was also part of the bench with Justice TS Thakur and Justice AK Sikri that suspended the sales of firecrackers in the National Capital Region in 2016.
Justice Indira Banerjee
Indira Banerjee is the Supreme Court's eighth female judge. A history honours graduate from Presidency College in Kolkata, Banerjee got her Bachelors of Law degree from Calcutta University and began practising in 1985. She practised both in the Original and Appellate Sides of the Calcutta High Court in all branches of law except criminal, with appearances in the Supreme Court and was elevated as a permanent judge of Calcutta High Court in 2002.
She was the chairperson of the Calcutta High Court Services Committee for almost four years. Banerjee was appointed a judge of the Delhi High Court in 2016 and headed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority. She was sworn in as Chief Justice of Madras High Court in 2017 and elevated to the Supreme Court in 2018.
Shortly after her elevation, Justice Banerjee, in a bench with Justice R Banumathi observed that a woman has a "right to refuse to submit herself to sexual intercourse to anyone" even if she is habituated to sexual intercourse while setting aside a Delhi High Court verdict that acquitted four men of rape in a 1997 case.
Justice Indu Malhotra
When Indu Malhotra was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court in 2018, she became the seventh woman judge in the history of the apex court and the first woman to be appointed as judge directly from the bar. A 1975 political science graduate from Delhi's Lady Shri Ram College, Malhotra received her law degree from Delhi University. In 1983, she became an advocate after a short stint as a lecturer. and later, secured the first position in Advocates- On Record Exam for the Supreme Court. reported SC Observer.
She ranked first in the Advocate-on-Record Examination of 1988 and was awarded the Mukesh Goswami Memorial Prize.
In 2017, she was appointed as a member of the high-level committee constituted by the Ministry of Law and Justice to review the working of arbitration institutions in India. Significantly for the case at hand, Malhotra was a member of the Viskaksha Committee on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace and a member of a committee constituted by the apex court to deal with sexual harassment complaints within the court.
In late 2018, she wrote the sole dissenting opinion in the Sabarimala Temple case, upholding the custom which disallowed menstruating women from entering the temple.
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Updated Date: Apr 26, 2019 08:57:23 IST