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CJI In Dock

Questions that are Crying for an answer

THE allegation of sexual harassment made by a former female employee of the Supreme Court against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is indeed turning into a case of wider engineering and import, though not exactly in the sense the CJI and his brother judges meant it. Someone named B R Harish Babu, claiming to be an ‘authorised signatory’ of a trust called Anti-Corruption Council of India, filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court seeking orders to the government-owned and privately owned media, including WhatsApp, Google, YouTube and LinkedIn and the website scroll.in, to “restrain them from publishing or telecasting the allegations against the CJI” as it was a direct attack on the Indian judicial system. Babu claimed that the “false affidavit filed by the dismissed employee of the office of CJI cannot be built as a pillar to make allegations against the Chief Justice of India.” Who was this B R Harish Babu in any case? What are the credentials of the Anti-Corruption Council of India? What is the track record of the council in fighting corruption? Was Babu acting as a proxy for some forces? A bench of Delhi Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani rejected his plea, saying that the Supreme Court itself is seized of the matter and has passed various orders, including the initiation of an inquiry into the sexual harassment case.

Newspapers, TV channels and social media platforms invariably become the second target of any big and powerful personality accused of sexual harassment, the first target being the woman making the allegations. No sooner the allegations of the former SC employee against the CJI were put up on some online sites than angry remarks started flying against the media for putting out highly irresponsible, totally false, completely absurd and absolutely baseless charges against the sanctum sanctorum of independent judiciary. The woman was portrayed as one facing criminal charges. The media was portrayed as an accomplice. Where would the media go now? Already certain sections had tattooed journalists as ‘presstitutes’. If even the Supreme Court thought of the media as bad, who would protect them? But, as the refusal to issue a gag order by the bench of Delhi Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani shows, there are corners where you can still hope to get justice.

The CJI had already done quite a bit of damage to the highest seat of the judiciary as well as to his personal reputation by sitting as a member of the three-member bench that shocked everyone with their outburst in the open court on the allegations by the woman and apocalyptic accusations that a deep conspiracy had been hatched to undermine the highest judiciary. Throughout the world, the law is well established: no one can be judge in a case against himself. But Ranjan Gogoi did. It was the last thing the nation expected the Chief Justice of India to do. But he did worse: he and his brother judges conducted the case without hearing the complainant!

In the days that followed it seemed the Supreme Court was more eager to bust the supposedly wider conspiracy behind the woman’s complaint before it had time to hear her complaint. The conspiracy theory was corroborated by Utsav Bains, a young Supreme Court advocate, who claimed that “a lobby of disgruntled judges, SC fixers, corporate scamsters and a few corrupt politicians” was behind this “conspiracy.” However, the affidavit Bains filed before the Supreme Court did not carry names of any “disgruntled” judge or “corrupt” politician. Nevertheless, a special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was set up to hear Bains. The bench also summoned the heads of the CBI, IB and Delhi Police for a closed-door meeting. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan has claimed that Bains might have met the CJI twice before he filed his affidavit alleging conspiracy. The question that obviously cries for an answer is: Were B R Harish Babu and Utsav Bains entirely driven by their own convictions and conclusions?

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