New Delhi: A special bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi was constituted on Saturday to hear a “matter of great public importance” after a 35-year-old junior court assistant at the Supreme Court of India wrote to 22 judges of the court on Friday, alleging that CJI Ranjan Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11, 2018.
The Indian Express reported that the bench was constituted after solicitor general Tushar Mehta mentioned before the Supreme Court official concerned allegations of sexual harassment that have cropped up against Gogoi.
In the affidavit the woman wrote: “He (CJI Gogoi) hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and did not let go. He told me ‘hold me’, he did not let go of me despite the fact that I froze and tried to get out of his embrace by stiffening and moving my body away.”
Scroll reported that when approached, the secretary general of the Supreme Court of India sent an email denying the allegations. It added that there were mischievous forces who were out to “malign the institution”.
The woman said that after she rebuffed the CJI, she was moved out of his residence office, where she had been posted in August 2018. Later, on December 21, she was dismissed from service. One of the three grounds for dismissal, as detailed in the inquiry report, was that she had taken casual leave for a day without approval.
The woman said her harassment did not end with her dismissal. Her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom are head constables in Delhi Police, were suspended on December 28, 2018, for a case involving a colony dispute dating back to 2012 that had been mutually resolved.
On January 11, a police officer accompanied her to the CJI’s residence where, she alleged that his wife asked her to apologise by prostrating on the floor and rubbing her nose at her feet. She followed the instructions, even though she did not know what the apology was for.
She claimed that despite the apology, her disabled brother-in-law, who had been appointed to the Supreme Court on October 9 as a temporary junior court attendant under the CJI’s discretionary quota, was served a termination letter on January 14 without giving any reasons.
On March 9, the woman and her husband were at their ancestral village in Rajasthan, when a Delhi police team showed up, wanting to take them back for questioning in a case based on a cheating complaint against her. The allegation was that she had taken Rs 50,000 from the complainant in 2017, promising to secure a job for him in the Supreme Court, but had failed to keep her word.
“On 3 March, someone called Naveen, who nobody knows, lodged a case that in 2017 this lady told me she will get me a job in the Supreme Court so I gave her Rs 50,000 and after two years he suddenly remembers to put an FIR. Even otherwise, the person who gives bribe is also to be charged. He is not charged, she is picked up and put into jail. She comes out. Now a cancellation of bail has been sought for her,” senior advocate and human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover told The Quint.
The next day the junior court assistant, her husband, her brother-in-law, his wife and a male relative were detained at the Tilak Marg police station, the affidavit said. They were subjected to verbal and physical abuse, their hands and legs were cuffed, and they were denied food and water for nearly 24 hours, the affidavit said.
Video footage showing the woman’s husband in handcuffs at the police station has been sent to the Supreme Court judges, as part of the annexures to the affidavit. “Her entire family has been harassed, victimised and intimidated,” Grover said.
Reacting to the allegation during the special sitting, CJI Gogoi said, “All I would like to say is this, undoubtedly every employee is treated fairly and decently. This employee was there for a month-and-a-half. Allegations came and I didn’t deem it appropriate to reply to the allegations,” he said.