Amid snowballing criticism for the manner in which he called a special Supreme Court sitting on April 20 to trash the sexual harassment complaint against himself, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Monday asked Justice S A Bobde, the second most senior judge, to decide on the next steps in the matter.
Sources told The Indian Express that at an informal meeting of the judges Monday morning, CJI Gogoi offered his version of the developments. He later assigned the matter to Justice Bobde who is in line to succeed him in November.
This move comes the day two lawyers’ bodies of the Supreme Court cited “procedural impropriety” in the April 20 sitting and said the “full court of the Supreme Court” should take all “necessary steps” to deal with the charges.
Last Saturday, the CJI had convened an “extraordinary” sitting after reports about a former woman staffer’s sexual harassment complaint against him. The allegations by the woman, who had worked at Justice Gogoi’s home office in Delhi, date to October last year. She alleged that after she resisted his “sexual advances,” she was fired and her husband and brother-in-law, both posted with the Delhi Police as head constables, were subsequently suspended.
Sitting with Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna, CJI Gogoi called the charges a bid by a “bigger force.to undermine the independence of the judiciary and deactivate the office of the CJI”. He added: “I should not stoop low even in denying it.”
On Monday the executive committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) resolved that the Saturday session of the court in the matter of allegations made by ex-employee against the CJI is “in violation of procedure established by law as well as principles of natural justice,” a statement issued by the SCBA said.
It urged the full court to collate all material with regard to the allegations from “electronic, print, social media and other available sources” for consideration at its next meeting.
The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) also pointed to “procedural impropriety” in convening the session and sought “immediate appointment of a committee headed by full court of Supreme Court to impartially investigate and inquire into the allegations.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association came out in support of the CJI and said it “strongly condemns the false, fabricated and baseless allegations” against him. It claimed that “unscrupulous allegations are aimed at maligning the institution”.