Seeking a fair and impartial enquiry in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013 the lawyers, scholars and members of women’s groups and civil society are shocked at reading the contents of the complaint of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation suffered by a former employee of the Supreme Court of India. An affidavit was submitted by the aggrieved woman to the 22 judges of the Hon’ble Supreme Court detailing the sexual harassment faced by her from none less than the Chief Justice of India. The 29 pages-long affidavits explained how she was posted in the office of the Chief Justice, systematically pursued at her home and office through calls and messages, encouraged initially with compliments, favours and excessive attention, finally followed by sexual advances. The administrative persecution both by way of termination of employment and registration of criminal cases against her and her family members came upon her when she rejected the sexual advances made by the Chief Justice. On 24th April it has been reported that Justice Bobde, the next senior most judge from
Supreme Court has been asked by the CJI to appoint a committee which will inquire into the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI. Justice Bobde has appointed a committee with himself as chair and Justice N V Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee as members. The constitution of this committee with no external member is in complete violation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013. Media reports that this committee will start hearing on Friday 26th April 2019 and that it has no fixed time frame in which to finish the proceedings, will follow an in house procedure and will not allow legal representation to either party. While the Mr Ranjan Gogoi may not need legal representation, this is tilting the balance against the complainant, again violating the spirit of the Vishakha judgement and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.
The constitution of a Committee headed by Justice Bobde with no external member is in “complete violation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013”, states the letter. The demands the 259 signatories to the letter have raised are:
- A Special Enquiry Committee consisting of credible individuals is constituted to conduct a thorough enquiry at the earliest and create an atmosphere of transparency and confidence for the complainant to depose.
- The Special Enquiry Committee should follow the norms of the IC and accordingly conduct its enquiry.
- The Chief Justice of India should refrain from transacting official duties and responsibilities until the completion of the enquiry.
- The Complainant should be allowed legal assistance from the lawyer of her choice.
- The enquiry should be completed within 90 days as stated in the law.
“It is these measures which will uphold the dignity and independence of the Judiciary and more particularly, restore the faith of all women, indeed all citizens of the country, in the Judiciary,”
“The Bar Council of India has rubbished the complaint in a way to attempt and malign the Judiciary and termed it politically motivated. In the absence of a duly conducted investigation or enquiry, we are puzzled about how the BCI, lawyers and judges are concluding with such haste that the complaint is false, baseless and motivated”, added the letter.