‘CJI Ranjan Gogoi Sexually Harassed Me’: Former Supreme Court Employee, SC Secretary General’s Office Denies Allegations
A former woman employee of the Supreme Court has written to all the judges of the top court, accusing Chief Justice of India (CJI), Ranjan Gogoi, of persecution after she resisted his alleged sexual advances on two occasions in October last year.
Seeking immediate protection from any “coercive action” by the Delhi police, the 35-year-old woman—who is a mother of an eight year old girl—in her SOS call has claimed “a grave threat” to her life besides the lives of her family members.
However, responding to a questionnaire sent by The Leaflet, the office of the Secretary General (SG) of the Supreme Court has refuted the allegations, saying the charges are “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous.” The response also pointed to an FIR that had been filed against the complainant in 2011 and a daily diary entry against her in 2012.
Please read the complete statement from the Secretary General’s office here:
In response to the above allegations by the Secretary General, the complainant has issued a statement today saying that the 2011 FIR, which was a petty fight between neighbours, had been quashed on September 5, 2016. [The Leaflet will file a separate story containing the complainant’s comprehensive response to the allegations made in the SG’s response to her complaint]
Days after the survivor was dismissed from the service on December 12, 2018 following a “shoddy” enquiry by the apex court’s administration, her husband and his brother, both constables in Delhi police, were also dismissed from their services, the complainant alleged. Eventually, the services of her another brother-in-law, who was also working in the Supreme Court on contract basis, were also abruptly terminated, she said.
Appointment To Justice Gogoi’s Court
She was appointed as junior court assistant in May 2014 and was later deputed to work in Justice Gogoi’s court in October 2016 when another junior court assistant was on leave.
“During the course of my work at the residence office of Justice Gogoi, he would repeatedly tell me that once he became the Chief Justice of India (CJI), he would be in a position to help me, and that I should tell him what I needed and he would see how he could help me.”
Narrating the chain of events that preceded her sexual harassment, she writes, “during the course of my work at the residence office of Justice Gogoi, he would repeatedly tell me that once he became the Chief Justice of India (CJI), he would be in a position to help me, and that I should tell him what I needed and he would see how he could help me.”
She also details how Justice Gogoi once allegedly offered to provide her family accommodation closer to his residence. “I told him that my family was reasonably well off … During the course of this conversation, I mentioned that only my younger brother-in-law was unable to find a job as he was disabled, Justice Gogoi then assured me that once he became the Chief Justice of India he would have the power to make appointments to the Supreme Court Registry staff through the Chief Justice’s discretionary quota.”
She further states that she along with her husband were also invited to the oath taking ceremony after Justice Gogoi was elevated as CJI.
A family member is appointed from the judge’s discretionary quota
A few days later, she writes, her brother-in-law was called for an interview and appointed as court attendant in group D category in the Supreme Court through the CJI’s discretionary quota.
“On October 10, 2018 morning, the CJI called me to his office and asked me to sit in the chair across his desk. CJI told me that my brother-in-law, who suffered from 60 percent disability in his legs had been appointed, and that he had ensured it despite the fact that my brother-in-law was found to be medically unfit as traces of blood were detected in his urine test,” she writes.
“What can you do for me”
Describing the alleged instances of the sexual harassment, she further says, “Though I usually wear a uniform of black and white clothing, on that day since it was the first day of Navratri, I had worn an orange kurta and dupatta. The CJI referring to my clothes, told me, ‘You are looking pretty good today’… He got up from his chair, then took my hands into his and told me that my hands smell nice… The CJI then asked me, ‘What can you do for me?’, I kept repeating that I was very grateful and that everybody in my family was very happy. The CJI then slid his hand from the back of my head, along my back to my hipline, till my lower back. I immediately froze and my body stiffened. I presume the CJI sensed this, and he immediately pulled both my cheeks, like one would do to a child. He told me that he is like this with his daughter too.”
“Soon after the CJI left, I was stunned and shocked as I immediately realised that the CJI had touched me in an extremely inappropriate manner… I was stunned and shocked that a man of his stature could do something like this,” she said.
Shocking and inappropriate behaviour
On the morning of October 11, 2018, according to her, the CJI again called her to his residence office and asked for a “sexual favour” in lieu of providing employment to her brother-in-law, before commenting that “If you put on some weight you will look good.”
“He (CJI) initially pinched my cheeks. He then put his arms around my waist from the front and said, ‘I want this from you’. He hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and did not let go… Since he did not stop hugging me, I was forced to push him away from me with my hands. When I pushed him away, he hit his head against a book shelf,” she says, adding that “I left the room immediately and was in a state of complete shock and was unable to think clearly.”
About 10-15 minutes later, she adds, “the CJI called me to his office again and told me, ‘whatever happened here, you will not share with anybody’. I was so upset and scared that I said, ‘yes of course your Lordship’. Then he told me, ‘write down that you will not disclose’. I had a piece of paper and pencil, in my hand, I wrote down what he dictated, ‘I will not harm your dignity, will you let me hold you’.”
“I was extremely scared, I knew what he was dictating was wrong, and that he was making it appear that it was me who tried to hold him,” she adds.
Unsolicited enquiries from court staff and police, threats from the judge
In her affidavit, she further states that on reaching home, she received repeated calls from an official of the administrative department of the Supreme Court’s Registry, who much to her discomfort probed her personal life while asking about her well-being.
“The same night, when I regained my senses and was able to think clearly, I called the CJI on his phone because I wanted to tell him that I could not work with him any longer. He did not receive my call. Instead he made his personal secretary to call me and tell me not to disturb Justice Gogoi at night. Though till then it was normal for him to Whatsapp and call me at odd times,” she further writes, adding that eventually, she came to know that SHO Tilak Marg Police Station had also enquired about her and her family.
The next day, she writes, the CJI called her to his office and threatened to harm her family in case she disclosed the incident to anyone.
Subsequently, she writes, though the CJI stopped calling her to his chamber as often and whenever he did call her inside his chamber, he would insist that one of the peons accompanied her. “Once when he called me inside his office room he told me that I should continue to send him messages wishing him Good Morning and I should continue to behave and work like before.”
Within three weeks after the alleged “sexual harassment and consequent victimisation” at the hands of the CJI Gogoi, she maintains, she was arbitrarily transferred thrice to different departments of the top court before she was finally dismissed from the service on “flimsy grounds”
During the course of her frequent transfers, she received a notice from the branch officer (Admin M) for taking a day off without prior permission and memos from the Registrar that led to the final ex-parte disciplinary hearing against her. It was followed by her suspension and eventual dismissal, the complainant has stated.
The memorandums from the Registrar had accused her of showing dissatisfaction with the sitting arrangement and enquiring from the branch officer as to why she was made to sit in Administrative Materials Section. It also accused her of trying to bring influence from unacceptable quarters for change of her seat. The third and the last change against her read that she was absent from the duty on November 11, 2018.
In her written representations to her seniors, she further says in the affidavit, she had clarified that, “after being given three postings within a span of three weeks, I was deeply anxious and felt deeply insecure about my performance…approached Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association. A request was made only to find out whether I had done something wrong.”
Regarding her absence from the duty on November 11, 2018, she claims she had to visit her daughter’s school and it was an aberration. “I worked diligently and had an unblemished record (during the four years of the service). My annual confidential report for the period 2014-15 graded me as ‘good’ and for the year 2015-16 as ‘very good’,” she maintains.
But she had tendered an unconditional written apology to her seniors later, she adds.
Though she couldn’t appear before the departmental inquiry on December 17 because she had to be rushed to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital by the Supreme Court employees after she fainted while waiting for the inquiry to start, according to sources, she was dismissed on December 21, 2018 on the charges of “misconduct and insubordination.”
Harassment of family members
She further writes in the affidavit that days after she was dismissed, her husband and his brother, both head constables in Delhi police, were also dismissed from the service. “On January 2, 2019, my husband received orders from the Deputy Commissioner of Police Vikaspuri, stating that a departmental action has been initiated against him as he made unsolicited calls to the office of Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, amounting to official misconduct,” she further says, adding, “On January 9, my husband received an order from the Deputy Commissioner of Police Vikaspuri, which stated that my husband had alleged links with local gamblers. The order also mentioned the registration of a criminal case against my husband and his brother in the year 2012.”
However, she claims that the matter related to the FIR had got compounded between the complainant and her husband and his brother on January 12, 2017.
In January, 2019, she says, the service of her husband’s younger brother—who is physically challenged and was given a job in group D category in the Supreme Court—was also abruptly terminated.
“Naak ragad ke jao”
She further alleges that on January 11, 2019, the SHO Tilak Marg summoned her and her husband to the police station and then in the civvies drove them to the CJI’s residence in a Maruti Swift car. “Registrar Supreme Court of India was already present there. He took me to Mrs. Gogoi in the CJI’s residence drawing room. In the presence of the SHO and the Registrar, Mrs. Gogoi told me “naak ragad ke jao (rub your nose on the ground and leave)”. But by this time I had realised that the CJI has concocted a false story about the sexual harassment incident. This was also the reason he had made me write a note saying I wanted to hug him, whereas he had made sexual and physical advances to me.”
“However, by this time the only thing I wanted was to save myself and my family. I fell at the feet of Mrs. Gogoi and rubbed my nose at Mrs. Gogoi’s feet, and said ‘sorry’. And then we left. The CJI was not present in the drawing room of the house at this time,” she adds.
But prior to that, she writes, a rumour had already started making rounds among several employees of the Supreme Court that she had committed suicide after getting dismissed from the service.
Frivolous FIRs, illegal arrests, shackles, assaults on family
Thereafter, according to her, a “false and frivolous” FIR was registered against her under section 420, 506, 120-B IPC at Tilak Marg Police Station on March 3, 2019. As per the FIR, she allegedly took an amount of Rs 50000 from a Jhajjar resident on the Supreme Court premises in 2017 on the promise of arranging a job for the complainant in the Supreme Court.
Explaining police high-handedness, she writes that on March 8, 2019, a police team from Delhi stormed her ancestral house in Rajasthan. After she along with her husband were brought to the Tilak Marg police station next day, she claims, the police assaulted her mother in law and kept her brother in law, sister in law and her husband in illegal detention even after securing her presence. Citing medical records, she says, she had to be rushed to the hospital due to poor health on the same day.
“I was arrested late at night, shackled from my feet…my husband was beaten up in police custody and handcuffed (though he was not arrested). I was kept in police custody for one day and judicial custody for another day. Consequently, I was forced to obtain bail,” she continues. “The police have now moved an application for the cancellation of my bail.”
Accusing the CJI of “misusing his position, office and authority and abusing his clout and power to influence” she says that “my dismissal, the suspension of my husband and my brother in law, and the dismissal of my handicapped brother in law are all part of a well planned strategy to intimidate me and prevent me from speaking about the sexual harassment by the CJI.”
“The persecution and torture is a well devised strategy to harass and victimise me, to ruin me and my family and cause us economic and social devastation,” she laments.
Cry for help
Besides writing letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh among others, she has filed complaints to the Delhi Commission for Women and National Human Rights Commission.“Even until that point I avoided talking about the sexual harassment, as I was very very scared and I did not want to anger the CJI further and invite any more harm to me and my family,” she says before adding that “However, it now seems like the harassment, victimisation and torture will not stop unless I speak out about the origin and motive for the harassment.”
Requesting the judges of the Supreme Court to constitute an independent external committee to inquire into her statement, she has pleaded that all the criminal proceedings against her initiated by the Police Station Tilak Marg and her dismissal from the post of junior court assistant at the apex court be set aside, and she be reinstated. Additionally, she has implored that her brother-in-law also be reinstated to the post of temporary junior court attendant and the suspension of her husband and his brother too be revoked without any further delay.
Response from the SG’s office
Replying to The Leaflet’s queries, SG office of the Supreme Court on behalf of the CJI Ranjan Gogoi, made the following assertions:
* The registry of the Supreme Court had posted this individual, who was employed at a level equal to a lower division clerk, in a routine manner at the residence office of the CJI, where in addition to her, there were several other employees also working as a part of the home office of the CJI, and at any given point of time, there were at least 5-6 other present as a part of the home office of the CJI.
* She worked as part of the home office of the CJI only for a short period, and as informed, given the nature of her duties, she had no occasion to interact directly with the CJI.
* She was dismissed from service as per procedure. Her brother-in-law was terminated as he was only a temporary employee at that stage and his performance and conduct was reported not to be satisfactory.
* It is not open to anyone to make unsolicited calls or uninvited approaches to the office of the CJI, especially an employee who has already been dismissed, and who previously engaged in inappropriate conduct. Since unsolicited calls and messages were received by the office of the CJI, a complaint had been made by the registry of the Supreme Court. Whether departmental enquiry was initiated against any member of her family by the Delhi Police, is something which the Delhi Police authorities might have done as per rules.
* The motive behind these false and scurrilous allegations is obviously mischievous. As referred to in your letter, there is a criminal case pending against her, where very serious allegation have been made, of her having taken a bribe to assure employment in the Supreme Court of India. It has been learnt that there is an application for the cancellation of bail earlier granted to her, which is listed for hearing on April 20, 2019 on account of her having made threats to the complainant of the said case.
* It would be extremely relevant to mention that the concerned individual and her family have criminal antecedents. There were previously two criminal cases which had been instituted against her i.e. (1) FIR No. 484/11, Police Station Hari Nagar under section 324, 341, 354, 506, 34 IPC; (2) DD No. 30 A dated 05.03.2012 under section 107/150, IPC, Police Station Hari Nagar, SEM Court, Moti Nagar.
* Throughout her employment in the Supreme Court, whether during her posting at home office of the CJI, or even subsequently after she was transferred out of the home office of the CJI or at the time she was terminated, or even thereafter, there were no complaints made by her of the nature now being alleged. It is not only mischievous but a complete afterthought of her to make these false allegations at this time.
* In fact, on the other hand, in the interregnum, there were complaints made against her by the secretariat of the CJI to the Secretary General on account of her inappropriate behaviour, and this resulted in her transfer out of the home office of the CJI. Apart from the misconduct formally recorded in the complaint by the secretariat, there were other counts of misconduct on her part.
* It appears that these false allegations are being made as a pressure tactics to somehow come out of the various proceedings which have been initiated in law, against her and her family, for their on wrong doings. It is also very possible that there are mischievous forces behind all this, with an intention to malign the institution.
The sequence of events as stated by the survivor in her affidavit can be viewed here.
The complete list of documents attached to this story include
-The complainant’s letter to the Judges of the Supreme Court
– The response to complaint by the Secretary General of the Supreme Court