Judiciary under serious threat: CJI

Judiciary under serious threat: CJI
NEW DELHI, APR 20 (IANS) | Publish Date: 4/20/2019 12:11:10 PM IST

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Saturday said the independence of the judiciary is under threat after allegations of sexual harassment against him, over which the Supreme Court held an urgent hearing.

“I will sit on this bench and discharge my duties without fear and favour till my tenure is over,” Chief Justice Gogoi said at an urgent hearing on a matter of great public importance after there were media reports alleging sexual harassment charges against him.

“Things have gone too far. Judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat”, Justice Gogoi said.

There was a larger conspiracy to destabilise the judiciary which has remained independent, he said.

Allegations of sexual harassment have cropped up against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi prompting him to convene an urgent extraordinary hearing on Saturday and assert that the charges by a former apex court staffer were “unbelievable” and part of a conspiracy by some “bigger force” to “deactivate” the CJI’s office.

As the allegations by the former woman staffer who had worked at Gogoi’s home office in Delhi and dating back to October stunned the judiciary, Gogoi said he would not stoop too low even to deny them.

At the hurriedly called hearing in Court No 1 presided by him after the allegations were carried by some news portals based on the affidavit by the woman, the apex court said it is leaving the issue to the “wisdom of media” to show restraint and act responsibly so that independence of judiciary is not affected. The court, however, decided not to issue any gag order.

An apex court bench of CJ Gogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna conducted the hearing at 10.30 a.m. after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urgently mentioned the matter.

A three-judge special bench headed by Gogoi was constituted after a sworn affidavit by the woman, copies of which were sent to the residences of 22 apex court judges, became public.

There was no immediate reaction from the government or any major political party. CJI also said that the woman had a criminal record and two FIRs were lodged against her. 

“How can she become a Supreme Court staff when an FIR was pending against her,” the CJI asked, adding that two criminal cases were also pending against her husband.

The court, which said the judiciary “cannot be made a scapegoat”, said the media should not publish the woman’s complaint without verifying its truth. 

CJI said this issue has cropped up when a bench headed by him is scheduled to hear “many, many sensitive cases” next week and this was also last few weeks of the Lok Sabha elections.

The CJI did not name any of the cases.

Besides the CJI, the bench also comprising justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna, said the “bigger force” behind the controversy has the potential to shake the faith of public in the judicial system. Though the CJI was heading the bench, he left it to Justice Mishra to take a call on passing any judicial order.

Dictating the order, Justice Mishra said, “Having considered the matter, we refrain from passing any judicial order at this moment, leaving it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published, as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of judiciary.”

“We would, therefore, at this juncture leave it to the media to take off such material which is undesirable,” the order said.


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