Saying she felt she is “not likely to get justice from this committee”, the former woman employee of the Supreme Court who alleged sexual harassment by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Tuesday said she will no longer participate in proceedings before an in-house committee of three serving judges inquiring into the allegations.
In a statement released to the press, the woman cited four reasons for deciding not to appear before the committee comprising Justices S A Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra: she has not been allowed the presence of her lawyer despite her “impaired hearing, nervousness and fear” ; there has been no video or audio recording of the committee proceedings; she has not been supplied “even a copy” of her statement as recorded on April 26 and 29; and, she has not been informed about the procedure the committee is following.
She said she was “compelled to walk out of the committee proceedings” Tuesday because “the committee seemed not to appreciate 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”.
“I felt I was not likely to get justice from this committee and so I am no longer participating in the Judge Committee proceedings,” she said.
The complainant claimed that she has “not been informed if the committee has sought any response from the CJI to my complaint”.
“I have been left guessing and anxious on all these matters… had hoped that the approach of the committee towards me would be sensitive and not one that would cause me further fear, anxiety and trauma,” she said.
The woman claimed that during the first hearing on April 26, the committee told her it was “neither an in-house committee proceeding, nor a proceeding under the Vishakha Guidelines and that it was an informal proceeding”. She claimed that she was “orally instructed that I should not disclose the proceedings of the committee to the media and was to not even share the proceedings with my lawyer Advocate Vrinda Grover”.
According to the woman, when she left after the hearing around 7.30 pm Monday, she was “followed by four men on two motorcycles” and was “scared” about “her safety”.
“I told the committee that it would not be possible for me to participate any further if I was not allowed the presence of my lawyer/support person. But this request was still refused by the committee and I was told that if I didn’t participate, they would proceed ex parte. I was told that there were certain questions on facts that they wanted me to answer. I declined to participate any further in the absence of my lawyer/support person,” she said.
“At the first hearing itself, I had also placed an application before the Committee to summon the CDR and WhatsApp call and chat records of two relevant mobile numbers. However, the Committee did not accept my application at the first hearing. The same application was finally taken by the Committee on 30th April 2019, when feeling helpless and distressed, I could no longer continue to participate in the Committee hearings,” she said.
“I was asked to narrate my account which I did to the best of my ability even though I felt quite intimidated and nervous in the presence of three Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court and without having a lawyer or support person with me. I had also pointed out to the committee that I had lost hearing in one ear completely due to stress and I was undergoing daily treatment for the same. As a result of this, I was sometimes unable to hear what was being dictated by Hon’ble Justice Bobde to the court official as a record of my statements before the committee,” she said.
She has claimed that the committee asked her to present her witnesses. “I informed them that almost all the witnesses are working in the Supreme Court of India and there is no likelihood of them being able to depose fearlessly before the committee. I also informed the committee today that due to my present health condition and personal circumstances, this kind of stress can be detrimental and harmful to me,” she said.