Two prominent associations of lawyers who work at the Supreme Court have passed resolutions criticising the way in which a special hearing of the court was conducted on 20 April to address the allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association (SCAORA) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) have both pointed out that this flew in the face of procedure and the rule of law, and also asked for the ‘full court’ of the Supreme Court to ensure the allegations are impartially investigated.
A ‘full court’ of the Supreme Court means a sitting of all the judges of the Supreme Court (currently 27 of them).
On 20 April, after reports in Scroll, Caravan, The Wire and The Leaflet about the allegations, the CJI had constituted a special bench to hear what was termed a matter touching on the independence of the judiciary. According to the notice from the Supreme Court registry, the bench consisted of CJI Gogoi along with Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna.
CJI Gogoi proceeded to cast doubts about the allegations and the complainant, and said the allegations were part of a larger conspiracy to “deactivate” him. The Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta and the Attorney General KK Venugopal were present and made comments in support of the CJI. The president of the SCBA also supported the judge, and claimed that the publication of the name of an accused in a sexual harassment case violated the law.
The Bar Council of India released a statement in support of the CJI, terming the allegations baseless and false. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley wrote a long post defending the CJI and terming the allegations part of a plan by “institutional disruptors” in the media to destabilise the judiciary.
However, both the SCAORA and the SCBA have taken a different approach. They have not commented on the veracity of the allegations – which cannot be decided on till an inquiry is conducted – and instead focused on the procedure being followed.
SUPREME COURT ADVOCATES-ON-RECORD ASSOCIATION
- The SCAORA terms the action of the CJI a “procedural impropriety”, and has said that it “strongly disapproves the manner in which the complaint was dealt with”.
- The resolution warns that the case can’t be dealt with differently and that the allegations need to be dealt with “as per the established procedure of law and law must be applied in each and every case uniformly.”
- It therefore asks for the immediate appointment of a committee headed by the ‘full court’ of the Supreme Court to “impartially investigate and inquire into the allegations against the Hon’ble Mr Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and give independent finding into the matter.”
SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION
- Despite the statements of its president in court, the SCBA’s Executive Committee held an emergency meeting and resolved that the procedure for conducting the proceedings on 20 April was “in violation of procedure established by law as well as principles of natural justice.”
- The resolution also requests the ‘full court’ of the apex court to “take all such necessary steps as may be required in law in this regard.”