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Woman, who accused CJI of sexual harassment, walks out of panel proceedings

New Delhi: A former apex court employee, who levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, dubbed on Tuesday as “very frightening” the atmosphere of the in-house inquiry committee and “walked out” raising various objections including denial of her lawyer’s presence.

She said she was also “scared of her safety” as she was followed by two to four men while returning from the proceedings.

The woman, who issued the press statement after participating in the proceedings for three days before the three-member panel headed by Justice S A Bobde, also expressed apprehension that she was “not likely to get justice” from the panel, which not only refused her request for presence of lawyer Vrinda Grover during the proceedings but also told her if she did not participate “they would proceed ex-parte.”

She said the panel, which comprised two women judges of the apex court – Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee – conducted the proceedings without video or audio recording and she was not even supplied with a copy of her statement recorded on April 26 and 29. She claimed that the committee also did not inform about the procedure that was to be followed during the inquiry.

She said: “I felt I was not likely to get justice from this committee and so I am no longer participating in the three-Judge Committee proceedings,” she said, adding that the panel on Tuesday declined her request for summoning of Call Detail records and WhatsApp details of two relevant mobile numbers which made her helpless and distressed from participating before the panel.

“I was compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings today (Tuesday) because the committee seemed not to preciate the fact that this was not an ordinary complaint but was a complaint of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI and therefore it was required to adopt procedure that would ensure fairness and equality in the highly unequal circumstances that I am placed.”

The woman said she had hoped that the approach of the committee towards her would be “sensitive” and not one that would cause her further fear, anxiety and trauma. “I have not been informed if the committee has sought any response from the CJI to my complaint and I have been left guessing and anxious on all these matters,” she further said. The woman claimed that she was repeatedly asked by the committee as to why she made this complaint of sexual harassment so late. “I found the atmosphere of the committee very frightening and I was very nervous because of being confronted and questioned by three Supreme Court judges and without even the presence of my lawyer/support person,” she said.

The former woman employee, who narrated the sequence of events since April 20 when her allegations against the CJI became public to the setting up of the panel and its proceedings for three days, said she joined the proceedings with a lot of hope. “But due to serious concerns and reservations, I am no longer participating in these in-house committee proceedings. I joined and participated in the Committee proceedings in good faith on April 26 and 29, 2019 with the hope that this committee would proceed in a manner that is fair to me and sensitive to my circumstances,” she said.

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