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SC Panel Clears CJI Ranjan Gogoi of Sexual Harassment Charges

The three-member in-house inquiry panel formed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to probe the sexual harassment charges against himself has given him a clean chit and said it has found no substance in the allegations levelled by the former SC staffer. 

The panel, led by Justice SA Bobde, said the report has been submitted to the Chief Justice and the next senior judge of the top court, and said that as it was an informal inquiry, it is “not liable to be made public”. 

“The in-house inquiry committee has found no substance in the allegations in the complaint dated April 19 of a former employee of the Supreme Court,” the Supreme Court said in a statement. Justices Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra were the other two judges on the panel. 

The former woman apex court staffer had in an affidavit sent to 22 SC judges described two incidents of alleged molestation, days after Justice Gogoi was appointed CJI last October, and her subsequent persecution. The woman, who had worked at Justice Gogoi’s home office in Delhi, alleged she was removed from service after she rebuffed his “sexual advances”.

She had withdrawn from the in-house inquiry on April 30 after its third in-chamber hearing, saying that she felt she was unlikely to get any justice there. The former SC employee had raised concerns about she not being allowed to take her lawyer to the hearing, the fact that there was no video or audio recording of the committee proceedings, and that she was not supplied even a copy of her statements during the first two sittings on April 26 and 29. 

Chief Justice Gogoi had appeared before the panel as the court had decided to go ahead with the inquiry even after the complainant opted out. He had dismissed the allegations against him as a serious threat to the judiciary’s independence and a plot aimed at attacking the office of the CJI. A parallel inquiry into the “conspiracy angle” is also being conducted by former SC judge AK Patnaik. 

According to media reports, there was also some concern within the court regarding the manner the proceedings were conducted. Justice Chandrachud, in line to be the CJI in 2022, had on May 2 written to the three judges in the probe panel that the “credibility of the Supreme Court would be further damaged if they decided to continue with the probe in the absence of the complainant”.

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