The 35-year-old Supreme Court staffer, who has accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, expressed her “fear and apprehensions” to the in-house inquiry committee Wednesday stating that her character was damaged even before the inquiry could start after the CJI convened a hearing on Saturday when he referred to her complaint as a “bigger plot” against him.
The staffer, in a letter to the committee, said that the inquiry should be conducted along the lines of the Vishakha Guidelines laid down by the SC, which mandates that the committee should have majority women members and an external woman member to “ensure fairness and impartiality.”
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The woman, who was issued a notice on Tuesday, by the in-house committee comprising Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Indira Banerjee, has also raised concerns over remarks made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “The next day (Sunday), the blog by a senior Cabinet minister also condemned me. Because of these events I am very scared and feeling isolated and depressed,” she said.
“I am only asking that your Lordships consider my fears and apprehensions at the time of my hearing…I have suffered a lot and I am hopeful that my suffering and torture of my family will come to an end soon… I am aware that I hold no position or status and have only truth on my side to place before your Lordships. I will only be ensured justice if I am provided a fair, independent impartial and just hearing.”
She also claimed that Justice Ramana “is a close friend of the CJI and like a family member to him” because of which she “fears” that her “affidavit and evidence will not receive an objective and fair hearing.”
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In the letter, she referred to a speech by Justice Ramana at the centenary celebrations of the High Court building in Hyderabad on April 20, a day after her complaint. “We have seen such attempts in the past and we will see more in the future…But today, judges are also under attack,” her letter quoted Justice Ramana, referring to a report in The Times of India.
“I am told that under the Vishakha guidelines judgment laid down by the Supreme Court and the 2013 law relating to Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment, the inquiry committee, to ensure impartiality and fairness, must have majority women members. The committee should have an external woman member with an understanding of women’s rights and should also be headed by a woman. I, therefore, request your lordships to please ensure that this committee also reflects this in its composition and procedure followed by the committee,” the letter states.
She also mentioned the observations made by CJI Gogoi in her letter. “I am extremely concerned and anxious, particularly after reading about the hearing in Court Number 1 of the SC on Saturday… presided by CJI, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna. According to the news report, CJI stated ‘I don’t think that this can be a plot of junior assistant. There is a bigger plot. They want to deactivate the office of CJI’,” stated her letter.
“My character was damaged as without any reason and without hearing me, it was said that I have criminal cases against me…After reading those news reports I was frightened and felt helpless that without anyone hearing me, my complaint had been declared to be false by the Honourable judges and senior law officers.”
She has requested the committee to inform her in “advance…about the procedure” that will be followed during the inquiry and that the “entire proceedings be video recorded”. Her letter stated: “…a copy of the same be given to me so that there can be no dispute about what transpired.”
“I am capable of presenting facts and evidence but I do not have any training or practical experience of law and procedure…I would need to be accompanied and assisted by a lawyer and support person of my choice. Which I believe is my basic right.”