No prizes for guessing what the outcome would be pertaining to the three-Judge in-house Supreme Court panel set up to probe the sexual harassment charges against the CJI Ranjan Gogoi! The answer was quite palpable and is now out in the open. A three-Judge in-house panel headed by Justice Sharad A Bobde who is the second most senior Judge of Supreme Court dismissed a sacked Supreme Court woman employee's sexual harassment complaint against CJI Ranjan Gogoi finding 'no substance” in her allegation.
It goes without saying that by now we have all now read headlines in many newspapers like Hindustan Times dated May 7, 2019 with heading titled 'Justices declare in one voice: Chief is innocent”. My unflinching faith in CJI thus stands fully vindicated now! I was right in writing in my earlier article that, 'Even God Cannot Shake My Faith In CJI Ranjan Gogoi”! I was also right in stating that, 'I value reputation more than character. Reputation is what people think you are and character is what actually you are. When you lose your reputation you fall in eyes of others but when you lose your character you fall in your own eyes.” CJI's reputation certainly suffered immense damage due to the serious allegations made against him by a woman complainant but his strong character stood like a fort and finally now the truth is all out there for all of us to see for ourselves!
It would be pertinent to mention here that a statement issued by Supreme Court Secretary GeneralSanjeevKalgaonkar said explicitly and elegantly that, 'The in-house committee has submitted its report dated 5.5.2019 in accordance with the in-house procedure to the next senior-most Judge competent to receive the report and also sent a copy to the Judge concerned namely the Chief Justice of India. The in-house committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint dated April 19, 2019, of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India.” The report was submitted to third senior most Justice Arun Mishra as the second seniormost Judge – Justice NV Ramana had recused after the complainant alleged close proximity of CJI with him!
Needless to say, in a letter to the panel, the woman staffer had expressed concern on the presence of Justice NV Ramana in the panel saying that, 'He is a close friend of the CJI and like afamily friend to him because of which she fears that her affidavit and evidence will receive an objective and fair hearing.” On April 25, Justice NV Ramana who enjoys a totally impeccable reputation and who is set to become the CJI after the incumbent CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sharad A Bobde opted out of the Committee with a heavy heart saying that, 'His decision to recuse is only based on an intent to avoid any suspicion that this institution will not conduct itself in keeping with the highest standards of judicial propriety and wisdom.”
No doubt, he also was at great pains to say that he 'categorically reject these baseless and unfounded aspersions on my capacity to render impartial judgment in this matter, in consonance with the best traditions of judicial propriety and the integrity of this Honourable Court”. There can be no denying it as Justice NV Ramana enjoys a formidable and unblemished reputation of always adhering to rules and regulations! He was replaced by Justice Indu Malhotra, who also heads the Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) of the Supreme Court. Will the complainant now question this woman Judge Justice Indu Malhotra also? Will the complainant now even question the other woman Judge Justice Indira Banerjee also who has a totally impeccable and independent reputation of always abiding by rules and regulations just like Justice Indu Malhotra?
Now what will the critics of CJI say? Will they say that CJI did not allow independent and impartial probe to be held? Will they say that the Judges probing the allegations have lost their capacity for an impartially balanced examination of the issue in question? What is happening in this country? No faith by some in CJI? No faith in the Judge Sharad S Bobde who probed the allegations and who is second senior most Judge of Supreme Court? No faith in two woman Supreme Court Judges – Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Indira Banerjee who were also members of the probe panel? No faith in an overwhelming majority of Supreme Court Judges who have all expressed solidarity with the CJI and have instead questioned the propriety of Justice DY Chandrachud's letter to the panel suggesting alteration of the inquiry procedure.
I am hundred percent certain that if the woman complainant had disclosed genuine proof before the two woman Judges and the in-house panel probing the serious charges made by her, then the CJI would have been compelled to resign! But there was not even an iota of proof and so the CJI had to be cleared of all the serious charges made against him! That is what happened also!
It must be disclosed here that Justice Sharad A Bobde had set up the panel after the CJI assigned him administrative and political powers to deal with the inquiry and cases arising from the sexual harassment complaint. In writing its report, the three-Judge panel considered a large number of documents – the complainant's 28-page affidavit sent to all Judges on April 19 complaining of alleged sexual harassment on October 11, 2018, by the CJI, her statement recorded before the panel, records of Supreme Court inquiry proceedings drawn against the complainant leading to her dismissal in December last year and her resistance to being moved from the CJI's residence office to the Supreme Court. She was shunted out after the CJI's Secretary complained of her inappropriate behavior on October 12. Can all this be dismissed lightly? The panel had also examined the CJI. Can anyone deny or question this also?
Be it noted, the in-house panel's report will not be made public. This is certainly not to hide anything. It is because of the reason pointed out by Supreme Court Secretary GeneralSanjeevKalgaonkar who said that, 'Please take note that in the case of Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India & Another [2003 (5) SCC 494], it has been held that the report of a committee constituted as a part of the in-house procedure is not liable to be made public.”
Be it noted, Kalgaonkar also said that, 'The in-house committee has submitted its report dated May 5, in accordance with the in-house procedure, to the next Judge competent to receive the report and also sent a copy to the Judge concerned, namely the Chief Justice of India.”
It cannot be dismissed lightly that Advocate Utsav Singh Bains had filed an affidavit earlier alleging that there was a wider conspiracy hatched by 'fixers and middlemen” to defame the CJI, leading to conflagration of the issue. The Apex Court has since asked retired Supreme Court Judge AK Patnaik to inquire into the role of 'fixers and middlemen” in manoeuvring listing of cases before benches of litigants choice! How can all this be dismissed lightly?
It is also worth mentioning here that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition filed by senior Supreme Court advocate ML Sharma who is seeking an SIT probe and direction to the CBI to register FIR against Prashant Bhushan, Kamini Jaiswal, Indira Jaising and others alleging that they conspired to malign the CJI. ML Sharma mentioned the petition before Justice Sharad A Bobde who agreed to consider it for listing. His petition also names advocates Vrinda Grover, Shanti Bhushan, Nina Gupta Bhasin and Dushyant Dave and refers to media reports to state that the sexual harassment complaint by the former Supreme Court staff complainant has been drafted by Bhushan and others in order to frame the CJI!
Let me say this on record: All these advocates are very eminent, reputed and senior advocates and I unlike senior advocate ML Sharma would not comment anything personal against them even though we all know that the CJI had refused to give out of turn hearing to Prashant Bhushan and others on many occasions but one thing is certain: The complaining staffer failed to prove anything. She was able to remove Justice NV Ramana at her whims and fancies but even in the revamped panel comprising of two Supreme Court women Judges she could not prove anything which clearly speaks for itself that how serious the allegations were against the CJI! She had appeared before the in-house committee on April 26, 29 and 30 but withdrew from the committee later and said she would not appear before the three-Judge panel anymore!
Honestly speaking, if her charges were really true then why did she withdrew? Why didn't she confront the CJI and why didn't she participate in the entire proceedings? Why didn't she reposed her full faith in the senior Judges of the Supreme Court who presided the panel and were members of the panel?
Why inspite of Justice NV Ramana recusing himself did she not trust the new panel members in which there were two woman Judges also? She has only shot herself in the foot by not trusting and directly questioning even the two most distinguished and reputed woman Judges – Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Indira Banerjee who have always commanded respect from all quarters and have an impeccable reputation of never succumbing in front of anyone apart from Justice Sharad A Bobde who presided the panel and who too has always enjoyed a completely impeccable and unblemished track record which is acknowledged even by his worst critics! How long will the women complainant keep blaming Judges of Supreme Court?
Why does she not realize the permanent validity of the time tested dictum propagated by Gautam Buddha that, 'When you point one finger at others, you simultaneously also point three fingers at yourself?” Why did she not immediately complain to the police in October last year when she was first sexually harassed as she claims? Why did she take things lying down for so long? Is she then herself not responsible for it?
It goes without saying that there are a lot of loopholes in the version given by the woman complainant. This alone explains that why she didn't face the full inquiry and opted out in between even before the proceedings were completed and why the in-house panel then gave clean chit to CJI Ranjan Gogoi. No credible evidence was put forward by which CJI could be implicated.
Can anyone deny or dispute it? Instead of always finding fault in the experienced and eminent Supreme Court Judges, the critics must introspect and so must the woman complainant who has failed to prove anything substantial against CJI Ranjan Gogoi. Law always goes by evidence and not by just allegations. We all know that senior lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan had alleged some years back that half of the CJIs they had worked with in Supreme Court were corrupt and had dared to sue them for contempt but without proof do those allegations stick? Certainly not! Law needs evidence!