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Woman Who Accused CJI of Sexual Harassment Says Will Not Get Justice From Inquiry Panel, Withdraws

The woman said she felt intimidated as she has to appear alone at the in-chamber sittings and even her lawyer was not allowed to be a part of the proceedings.

News18.com

Updated:April 30, 2019, 11:25 PM IST
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Woman Who Accused CJI of Sexual Harassment Says Will Not Get Justice From Inquiry Panel, Withdraws
In a special hearing on Saturday, CJI Ranjan Gogoi had dismissed sexual harassment allegations against him as a serious threat to the judiciary’s independence. (File photo/PTI)

New Delhi: The former Supreme Court employee who had accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment has withdrawn from the inquiry being conducted by the in-house panel of three judges, saying that she felt she was unlikely to get any justice there.

Her withdrawal came after the panel, led by Justice SA Bobde, held its third in-chamber sitting on Monday. In the three hearings held so far, the woman said she felt intimidated as she has to appear alone and even her lawyer was not allowed to be a part of the proceedings.

In a press release, the woman said she has decided not to participate in the inquiry by the Bobde Panel as there was no support for her at the hearings despite her "impaired hearing, nervousness and fear".

She also pointed out that there was no video or audio recording of the committee proceedings, she was not supplied even a copy of her statements during the first two sittings on April 26 and 29 and she was not even informed about the procedure the committee was following.

She further said in her statement that at the first hearing itself, she had submitted an application before the committee to summon the WhatsApp call and chat records of two mobile numbers but the panel did not accept her request.

"The same application was finally taken by the Committee on 30th April 2019, when feeling helpless and distressed I could no longer continue to participate in the committee hearings".

On April 23, Justice Bobde had said that the in-house procedure did not contemplate representation of advocates on behalf of parties as it was not a formal judicial proceeding. "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," he said.

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

The woman further claimed that after the first hearing, she noticed that the car she was travelling by was being followed by two men on a motorcycle whose partial number she was able to note.

She said she raised this concern to the committee on Tuesday and requested that the proceedings be treated as a formal inquiry as per Vishakha guidelines and POSH Act that deal with cases of sexual harassment in workplaces. Instead of considering her requests, the former SC staffer said the panel kept asking why she had come forward with her complaint so late.

"I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings today because the committee seemed not to appreciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but was a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI and therefore it was require to adopt procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances that I am placed. I had hoped that the approach of the committee towards me would be sensitive and not one that would cause me further fear, anxiety and trauma," she said.

The woman's allegations against the CJI were brought into the public domain by four web portals on April 20. She had worked at Justice Gogoi's home office in Delhi and the allegations were carried by the news portals based on her affidavit which was sent to 22 judges of the top court.

In her affidavit, the woman described two incidents of alleged harassment, 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.

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