What happened in the Supreme Court of India on Saturday has alarmed the citizens of India and disturbed their beliefs in the judiciary. This is a matter of great public importance. Most of us have learned to either believe sexual harassment allegations or disbelieve them. There’s no in-between.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, source: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times

But this is what society and situations have done to our minds. Do we have reasons to disbelieve a woman who is accusing an employer, a family member, a corporate in high position or a fellow colleague? But what about the credibility a person creates when he starts his career? What about the celebrity you have been ‘fanboying’ since you were a child? Your fandom doesn’t want to believe that he could have done a crime as heinous as sexual harassment and assault. There’s a need to come to an end of all these discussions. There’s an immediate need for actions to be taken in order to find the guilty and relieve the victim from his/her psychological and legal stress.

A woman who used to work as a junior court assistant alleged that Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi had made sexual advances at her in his residence office in October 2018. She says she did not consent to the acts by CJI and therefore was thrown out of his residence there and then. After two months she was terminated from her job and her husband and brother-in-law also had to face the consequences in their jobs. She demanded an investigation as early as possible and believes that the CJI should be temporarily removed from his post until the investigation gets over. CJI meanwhile denied all allegations against him and said that this accusation is a part of a major plan. What possible reasons can we give ourselves to suspect what the woman said? But is that fair trial?

CJI led bench has still not passed any orders on the allegations and has asked the four media organizations who have first covered the matter, to show some restraint and protect the independence of the judiciary, stating that “Things have gone too far”.

The CJI has expressed that it’s the competition and the jealousy that has led to the accusations against him because nobody can catch him on his money in the bank account so people have to find something else. The CJI has announced that there already are criminal allegations against the woman who has filed the complaint, he said that,

“There are two FIRs against her. How did she enter the Supreme Court service when there was a criminal case pending? I inquired from the Delhi police.”

The question that crosses my mind after reading this is that how come Delhi police allowed the woman to work for Supreme Court if she already had criminal cases against him? Another report covered that a lawyer has agreed to be given a bribe up to Rs 1.5 Crores to help frame the CJI in a sexual harassment report.

Swami Agnivesh, source: Twitter

On the other hand, Swami Agnivesh believes this is a plot created in order to deactivate CJI from his seat because there are important cases still pending in the court which need to be solved. The activist has claimed that the allegations might have been leveled with a ‘sinister intent to deactivate the office of the CJI’ and called for an impartial inquiry. In a statement given to Scroll, he said that,

“It is too early to form any definitive impression on the veracity or otherwise of the charges. But, under the circumstances, it seems plausible that a sinister intent to deactivate the office of the CJI could be playing behind the facade of this event. The fact that the CJI is due to hear a number of important cases involving huge stakes, lends credence to this apprehension. In light of this, I propose the CJI must hear all cases listed in his course. He has no option but to do so.”

All this sure needs immediate intervention by the authorities and needs to be checked, but oh who will do that? There was no formal procedure to deal with the allegations against CJI.

“Curiously, after the CJI had placed his own ‘defense’, and on this occasion, aspersions were cast on the veracity and integrity of the complainant, he rescued himself, and the judicial order does not reflect his name,”

senior lawyer Vrinda Grover pointed out. In circumstances like this whereby charges of sexual harassment and intimidation have been alleged against a person in the highest judicial office, it is imperative for the confidence of people in the judiciary that the person himself does not handle the case. To play fair, it is a basic rule that a person cannot be a judge in his own case.

Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover, source: PTI

An allegation against such a person makes a huge impact on the minds of the accused, the victim and even the citizens of the country. Investigations, if not carried, make the victim feel ignorant and the accused more restless. The people of the country have started to lose faith in the judiciary. It is important that the reality comes to light without which there are chances of people getting misled and misinformed about a person in power.

Source: Bloomberg

The questions that can be raised now are: Did CJI became a judge in his own case? Is there a procedure to deal with allegations against the CJI himself? During this election-heavy time in the country, will the higher authorities be able to spare time for the investigation and looking into the matter? Are we ready to listen to both sides of the story? Or will this wave of belief in the victim prevail?

Harshita Malik
Harshita Malik

Trained in journalism, fights for gender and human rights issues. Open to talks and criticism. Believes in individual wishes and opinions. A mediocre reader of non-fiction.

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