Cameras lined up outside the Supreme Court of India. (Source: PTI)

Justice SA Bobde To Lead Panel Looking Into Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Chief Justice Of India

Justice SA Bobde, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, was on Tuesday appointed to conduct an in-house inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

When contacted, Justice Bobde, who is next to the Chief Justice in seniority, confirmed the development. He said being the number two judge, the Chief Justice of India has appointed him to look into the allegations of sexual harassment charges levelled by a former woman staff.

Justice Bobde told PTI that he has decided to form a panel by inducting two apex court judges -- Justice NV Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee. “I decided to have Justice Ramana in the panel as he is next to me in the seniority and Justice Banerjee as she is a woman judge,” Justice Bobde said.

Bobde said he has already issued notice to the woman who had written letters to the judges and sworn on affidavit about the alleged sexual harassment.

The first hearing will be conducted on Friday and the Supreme Court secretary general has been asked to be ready with all documents and materials.

Also read: Chief Justice Of India Faces Sexual Harassment Charges - The Story So Far

“This is going to be an in-house procedure which does not contemplate representation of advocate on behalf of parties. It is not a formal judicial proceeding,” Justice Bobde said.

He clarified that there is no time frame to to complete the inquiry and future course of action will depend on “what comes out of the inquiry” which will be “confidential”.

A three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice on Saturday had held an unprecedented hearing in the wake of allegations. Describing the allegations of sexual harassment against him as “unbelievable”, the Chief Justice Gogoi said a larger conspiracy was behind it and he would not stoop so low even to deny these allegations. He had said some “bigger force” wanted to “deactivate” the office of the Chief Justice of India.

After Saturday’s hearing, some lawyers and jurists had criticised the Chief Justice for constituting the bench comprising him, though he recused himself in the middle of the hearing leaving it for Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna to pass the order.

On Tuesday, the Chief Justice set up a fresh bench comprising Justices Mishra, RF Nariman and Deepak Gupta to adjudicate the matter relating to sexual harassment allegation.

The former Supreme Court staffer had levelled the allegations against the Chief Justice which was brought into public domain by some news web portals on April 20. The woman had worked at Chief Justice Gogoi’s home office in Delhi and the allegations were carried by a number of news portals based on her affidavit.

On Saturday, the Supreme Court said it is leaving it 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.

In her affidavit, the woman described two incidents of alleged molestation, days after Justice Gogoi was appointed Chief Justice last October and her subsequent persecution.

The woman alleged that she was removed from service after she rebuffed his “sexual advances”. She claimed that her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom were head constables, were suspended for a 2012 criminal case that had been mutually resolved.

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