The unsavoury episode of an ex-staff of the Supreme Court charging the Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi with sexual harassment brings to attention several issues. The Bar Council of India may have called the allegation ‘false and cooked up’ but the truth remains that the 35-year-old woman has alleged misconduct of a serious nature of a person who has the exalted position of swearing in the President of India to office. The Women in Criminal Law Association have rightly distanced themselves from the bar council statement and have said the CJI should not hold office during the process of inquiry.
The woman victim used to work as a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court and wrote to 22 judges of the court 19 April 2019, alleging that Gogoi made sexual advances towards her at his residence in October 2018. She was moved out of his residence office after she rebuffed him. Two months later, she was dismissed from service. The CJI denied the allegations and, instead, said the judiciary was under serious threat. The Supreme Court constituted a special bench 20 April and decided that an appropriate bench would hear the woman’s charges.
It is but natural justice that the inquiry should be conducted in all fairness to the CJI and the complainant. There should be equality before law. The allegation is a fit case to be heard under the POSH Act (Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace [Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal] Act, 2013). Instead of waiting for his peers to point out that Gogoi should keep off the Supreme Court, the CJI should gracefully step aside till the case is settled. Not just Caesar’s wife, Caesar should also be squeaky clean and above suspicion.