“SEXUAL HARRASMENT, GENDER DISCRIMINATION AT WORKPLACE"

A CRITICAL STUDY OF THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST RANJAN GOGOI


SUBMITTED BY:

Divyanshi Singh Choudhary

BA LLB, 3rd year student

SYMBIOSIS LAW SCHOOL, HYDERABAD


BACKGROUND OF THE CASE (FACTS)

The case at hand is a much-disputed issue, not only from the point of view of law but also from various other aspects, one of them being gender discrimination, which is the main theme upon which the authors are researching.

"Today these are the rights of a working woman, but they set a precedent for the decimation of fundamental rights of all citizens and not just those who are already disadvantaged1."

The Indian Judiciary faced an unprecedented problem when a former junior court assistant alleged sexual harassment by the current Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. After the publication of the affidavit of the complainant in media, an urgent hearing was convened in the court of the CJI, comprising of the Chief Justice and Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna. The notice of registry stated that it was a matter of “great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary2.”

On 8 May 2019, on the second day in succession, people protesting at Connaught Place, against the “clean chit” given to Justice Gogoi by an in-house inquiry that violated established procedures and principles and demanding an independent inquiry, were detained at Mandir Marg police station. The police came in large numbers armed with water cannon. These events are an action replay of 7 May, when a large police force, that was also equipped with water cannons,forcibly picked up and detained about 50 women activists who were protesting on the same issue outside the Supreme Court3.

While the police is clamping down on protest demonstrations against the “supreme injustice,” a plethora of cases have been filed against the complainant and those supporting her rights. These pleas and affidavits echo the refrain set up by none other than the accused, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the Chief Justice of India (CJI)4.

On 20 April in a special hearing purportedly on “the independence of the judiciary” that he himself ordered, the CJI sat on a three-member bench, denied all charges of sexual harassment, maligned the complainant, and declared that a “bigger conspiracy” was afoot to “deactivate the CJI’s office5.”

Both the Attorney General and Solicitor General, whose role is to appear for the government and who had no locus in the matter, rubbished the allegations and carried out a character assassination of the complainant. Both offices are expected to assist the Supreme Court and the government in fulfilling their constitutional obligations, not participate in proceedings violative of natural justice. They later even asked for a SIT to be constituted to probe the “conspiracy”6.

Neither except for a handful of judges, and advocates of whom a large number are women, the judiciary has chosen not to criticize nor express any disquiet over the CJI’s abuse of authority, and the brazenly flawed inquiry7. The functioning of the inquiry committee, in fact, illustrates why the Supreme Court’s own guidelines emphasize the presence of external members in panels inquiring into sexual harassment at the workplace8. The mere presence of two women justices did nothing to ensure a fairer procedure, as the CJI was senior to them, besides of course being forcibly picked up and detained about 50 women activists who were protesting on the same issue outside the Supreme Court3.

While the police is clamping down on protest demonstrations against the “supreme injustice,” a plethora of cases have been filed against the complainant and those supporting her rights. These pleas and affidavits echo the refrain set up by none other than the accused, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the Chief Justice of India (CJI)4.

On 20 April in a special hearing purportedly on “the independence of the judiciary” that he himself ordered, the CJI sat on a three-member bench, denied all charges of sexual harassment, maligned the complainant, and declared that a “bigger conspiracy” was afoot to “deactivate the CJI’s office5.”

Both the Attorney General and Solicitor General, whose role is to appear for the government and who had no locus in the matter, rubbished the allegations and carried out a character assassination of the complainant. Both offices are expected to assist the Supreme Court and the government in fulfilling their constitutional obligations, not participate in proceedings violative of natural justice. They later even asked for a SIT to be constituted to probe the “conspiracy”6.

Neither except for a handful of judges, and advocates of whom a large number are women, the judiciary has chosen not to criticize nor express any disquiet over the CJI’s abuse of authority, and the brazenly flawed inquiry7. The functioning of the inquiry committee, in fact, illustrates why the Supreme Court’s own guidelines emphasize the presence of external members in panels inquiring into sexual harassment at the workplace8. The mere presence of two women justices did nothing to ensure a fairer procedure, as the CJI was senior to them, besides of course being that be16. It is a cause to rage collectively when hard-fought rights can so easily be thrown to the winds by none other than the highest body meant to defend them17. Today these are the rights of a working woman, but they set a precedent for the decimation of fundamental rights of all citizens and not just those who are already disadvantaged18. We have looming before us a society and polity where individuals become larger than institutions19, and where all arms of the state are complicit in silencing all challenges to an arbitrary exercise of power by the authorities20.


COURSE TAKEN BY THE COURT

The instant case at hand was dealt by the judicial authorities in a rigorous manner; here is the chronology of the events that took place while this case was being decided by the competent authorities.

It commenced on the April 19, 22 Apex court judges were sent a letter, along with affidavit, concerning the allegations related to the harassment in question. The woman who leveled these allegations against the person in authority; who was appointed as a Junior Court Assistant in Mr. Gogoi’s office of court of law21. She contended that while she was working as an assistant between the time period of, May 1, 2014 and December 21, 2018, she was harassed by the CJI in question. April 20, followed by the letter and the affidavit was a Supreme Court bench comprising of the CJI himself, a hearing was scheduled on the said date on the matter relating to the harassment and persecution22. The point highlighted being that; the CJI left in between the hearing and rescued himself from the catch 22 situation.

April 22, one of best advocates of these times namely, Utsav Singh Bains, contended in the court of law that the whole case is made out of fictional beliefs and this is merely a way to make the CJI in question resign from such a high post. The said lawyer was of the view that, the allegations were nothing but false in nature and shouldn’t be entertained in the court of law, in turn wasting the time of the law enforcing agencies23.

April 23, the senior-most judge of the Apex court, Justice S A Bobde, was appointed as the headperson to conduct an in-house inquiry to look into the allegations leveled against the CJI. Justices N V Ramana and Indira Banerjee, being the other members of the panel24.

April 24, the fact that Justice Ramana was a member of the inquiry panel bothered the complainant as he was a close friend of the CJI, against who the allegations were put. She expressed resentment against his presence for the same25.

April 25, the result of the resentment being that, Justice Ramana was being replaced with Justice Indu Malhotra being the third member of the panel.

April 25, the same day a former Supreme Court Judge namely, Justice A K Patnaik, constituted the one-man panel that was formed to hold an inquiry into allegations of larger conspiracy to frame the CJI in question. This instant panel would not be looking into the sexual harassment allegations; clarification was given in this aspect. April 26, the complainant appeared before the panel which was constituted to hold an in-house inquiry panel.

April 29, the woman was asked to appear before the in-house inquiry panel for the second time and her statement was recorded.

April 30, a press statement is released by the woman in question stating her decision to walk out of these proceedings.

May 5, the Highest Court of appeal in India rejected the media reports which asserted the presence of Justices RF Nariman and DY Chandrachud during the period of inquiry that was held to look into the allegations and clearly denied the report which stated that they met Justice SA Bobde during the same.

May 6, the in-house panel gave its report and found, “no substance” in the allegations leveled against the CJI. A notice by the office of Supreme Court Secretary General said the report of the committee was not liable to be made public26.

It is a well settled fact that, that the CJI is known for settling one of the longest-running disputes in the nation, Ayodhya namely, was given a “clean chit” by the competent court of law. The timeline of the action taken by the court gives one an idea how the matter was taken by the courts and gave an accurate picture of how justice is administered in the nation.


1 Chapman, A. and Carbonetti, B. (2011). Human Rights Protections for Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Groups: The Contributions of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Human Rights Quarterly, 33(3), pp.682-732.

2 Tanay Goyal, Sexual Harassment Allegations Against the CJI: A view of the Legal Side, JURIST- Student Commentory, June 23, 2019, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/tanay-goyal-cji-sexual-harassment.

3 PUDR Issues Statement against, “Supreme Injustice” in Sexual Harassment case against CJI Ranjan Gogoi, ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846, Shahana Bhattacharya and Deepika Tandon, https://www.epw.in/engage/article/pudr- statement-against-supreme-injustice-cji-gogoi-sexual-harassment.

4 Supreme Injustices | pudr Pudr.org, https://pudr.org/index.php/supreme-injustices (last visited Feb 14, 2020). 5 Karl G. Williams, Responding to false charges of sexual harassment, 51 American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2004-2005 (1994).

6 David Kenny & Conor Casey, A One Person Supreme Court? The Attorney General, Constitutional Advice to Government, and the Case for Transparency, SSRN Electronic Journal (2019).

7 EDITORIAL 14.07.10 Editorialsamarth.blogspot.com, https://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com/2010/07/editorial-

140710.html (last visited Feb 14, 2020).

8 Shayani Sarkar, Why Does Under Reporting of Sexual Harassment Continue to Prevail in the Workplace in the 21st Century, SSRN Electronic Journal (2017).

9 Police clamp down on protests against “clean chit” to Justice Gogoi – PUDR Report Sanhati.com, http://sanhati.com/articles/19188/ (last visited Feb 14, 2020).

10 Allegations against CJI Ranjan Gogoi: Former woman employee of SC seeks copy of in-house inquiry report Free Press Journal, https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/allegations-against-cji-ranjan-gogoi-former-woman-employee- of-sc-seeks-copy-of-in-house-inquiry-report (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

11 Lis Bates, Justice for victims of sexual abuse and harassment: lessons for Westminster? 2 Journal of Gender- Based Violence, 397-402 (2018).

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13 Sur.conectas.org, https://sur.conectas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/sur7-eng-full.pdf (last visited Feb 14, 2020).

14 Arpita Sahu, Combatting Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, Volume-2 International Journal of Trend in Scientific Research and Development, 2239-2242 (2018).

15 Js verma committee report.pdf | Gender Equality | Ethnicity, Race & Gender Scribd, https://www.scribd.com/document/356941057/js-verma-committe-report-pdf (last visited Feb 14, 2020).

16 Sarah Morales, Digging for Rights: How Can International Human Rights Law Better Protect Indigenous Women from Extractive Industries? 31 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 58-90 (2019).

17 PUDR Issues Statement against 'Supreme Injustice' in Sexual Harassment Case against CJI Ranjan Gogoi Economic and Political Weekly, https://www.epw.in/engage/article/pudr-statement-against-supreme-injustice-cji- gogoi-sexual-harassment (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

18 Aleardo Zanghellini, Raz on Rights: Human Rights, Fundamental Rights, and Balancing, 30 Ratio Juris, 25-40 (2017).

19 Douglass C. North, Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going? SSRN Electronic Journal (1997).

20 Virginia Valian, we are all complicit in harassment and abuse, 574 Nature, 7-7 (2019).

21 "Principles of natural justice are to some minds burdensome but this price-a small price indeed-has to be paid if we desire a society governed by the rule of law." - ADVOCATEMMMOHAN - APEX COURT CASE LAW Sites.google.com, https://sites.google.com/site/supremecourtcaselaws/cheque-bouns- cases/principlesofnaturaljusticearetosomemindsburdensomebutthisprice-asmallpriceindeed- hastobepaidifwedesireasocietygovernedbytheruleoflaw (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

22 Justice Karnan vs Supreme Court: saga of a defiant judge The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/justice-karnan-vs-supreme-court-the-saga-of-a-defiant- judge/article18414667.ece (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

23 Trial: Question for Court and Jury, 5 Michigan Law Review, 716 (1907).

24 Judicial Reforms – Civil daily Civilsdaily.com, https://www.civilsdaily.com/story/judicial-reforms/ (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

25 Chief Justice of India sexually harassed me, says former SC staffer in affidavit to 22 judges Scroll. in, https://scroll.in/article/920678/chief-justice-of-india-sexually-harassed-me-says-former-sc-staffer-in-affidavit-to-22- judges (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

26 Give me copy of clean chit to CJI: Woman to SC in-house panel probing sexual harassment allegations. The Indian Express, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/give-copy-of-clean-chit-to-cji-woman-sc-sexual-harassment- allegations-ranjan-gogoi-5716005/lite/ (last visited Feb 17, 2020).

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