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Justice SA Bobde to Conduct Inquiry into Allegation of Sexual Harassment Against CJI Ranjan Gogoi

Justice Bobde said he has decided to form a panel by inducting two apex court judges — Justice NV Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee.

News18.com

Updated:April 23, 2019, 11:05 PM IST
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Justice SA Bobde to Conduct Inquiry into Allegation of Sexual Harassment Against CJI Ranjan Gogoi
File photo of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. (PTI)
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New Delhi: Justice SA Bobde, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, was on Tuesday appointed to conduct an in-house inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against the CJI.

When contacted, Justice Bobde confirmed the development. He said being the number two judge, the CJI India has appointed him to look into the allegations of sexual harassment charges levelled against him by a former woman staff.

Justice Bobde said he has decided to form a panel by inducting two apex court judges — Justice NV Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee.

"I decided to have Justice Ramana in the panel as he is next to me in the seniority and Justice Banerjee as she is a woman judge," he added.

Justice Bobde said he has already issued notice to the woman who had written letters to the judges and sworn on affidavit about the alleged sexual harassment.

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. "This is going to be an in-house procedure which does not contemplate representation of advocate on behalf of parties. It is not a formal judicial proceeding," Justice Bobde said.

He clarified that there is no time frame to to complete the inquiry and future course of action will depend on "what comes out of the inquiry" which will be "confidential".

A three-judge bench headed by CJI on Saturday had held an unprecedented hearing in the wake of allegations made against Justice Gogoi.

Describing the allegations of sexual harassment against him as "unbelievable", the CJI had convened the extraordinary hearing at the Supreme Court during which he said a larger conspiracy was behind it and he would not stoop so low even to deny these allegations.

Justice Gogoi had said some "bigger force" wanted to "deactivate" the office of the CJI.

After the Saturday's hearing, some lawyers body and jurists had criticised the CJI for constituting the bench comprising him, though he had recused himself in the middle of the hearing leaving it for justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna to pass the order.

Gogoi's presence on the bench, however, was criticised. Former Supreme Court Judge N Santosh Hegde on Tuesday said the CJI hearing a case involving sexual harassment allegations against him was "wholly wrong both in law and morality". On Monday, the Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association (SCAORA) had also expressed “its deep reservation against procedural impropriety” shown by CJI Gogoi.

On Tuesday, the CJI set up a fresh bench comprising justices Mishra, RF Nariman and Deepak Gupta to adjudicate the matter relating to sexual harassment levelled against him.

The former woman apex court staffer had levelled the allegations against the CJI which was brought into public domain by some news web portals on April 20. The woman had worked at Justice Gogoi's home office in Delhi and the allegations were carried by these news portals based on the affidavit by the woman.

On Saturday, the apex court had said it is leaving it to the "wisdom of media" to show restraint and act responsibly so that independence of judiciary is not affected. The court, however, decided not to issue any gag order.

In her affidavit, the woman described two incidents of alleged molestation, days after Justice Gogoi was appointed CJI last October and her subsequent persecution.

The woman alleged that she was removed from service after she rebuffed his "sexual advances". She claimed that her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom were head constables, were suspended for a 2012 criminal case that had been mutually resolved.

(With PTI inputs)

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