National Law University topper, skipped her convocation because she did not want to be honoured by the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. Surbhi Karwa, this year's topper at the NLU in Delhi, stood first in her LL.M class. However, following the way the Apex court handled the sexual harassment allegations against the CJI, she didn't want to be felicitated by him. After calling out her name during the convocation, Prof (Dr) G S Bajpai, the university registrar, said, " Unfortunately, she is not here. We will award her the medal in absentia."
“Getting the gold medal itself is an honour and I am thankful to my parents and teachers who have helped me along the way. Receiving it from one person is not as important as getting it,” Karwa said.
Karwa knew that she would be awarded a medal for standing first in class. However, she didn't want to receive the same from CJI and hence she decided to skip the event. “Everything I learnt in the classroom put me in a moral quandary over the last few weeks on whether I should receive the award from CJI Gogoi. The institution he heads failed when sexual harassment allegations were made against him,” Karwa told The Indian Express. “I am seeking answers for myself on the role lawyers must play in guarding Constitutional values, and that is something even the CJI mentioned in his speech,” she added.
In his speech at the convocation, CJI Gogoi had reminded students that the law degree is a “call of duty” to defend Constitutional values. “Say no and a big no to anything and everything that appear to your mind to be morally and actually regressive. Say yes to everything which you think can be offered to anybody,” Gogoi said.
The Person Giving It Not As Important As The Gold Medal
Karwa said that what mattered to her was getting the gold medal, and not who was giving it.“Getting the gold medal itself is an honour and I am thankful to my parents and teachers who have helped me along the way. Receiving it from one person is not as important as getting it,” she said. This year, along with the CJI, The Cheif Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia were the chief guests at the National Law University convocation ceremony. Many senior advocates, judges and academicians, including Prof Upendra Baxi, occupied the front row in the event. Delhi High Court Chief Justice D N Patel delivered the commencement speech.
Everything I learnt in the classroom put me in a moral quandary over the last few weeks on whether I should receive the award from CJI Gogoi. - Surbhi Karwa
What was the case?
A former junior assistant at the Supreme Court had accused the current CJI of sexual harassment at his residence office last year. The 35-year-old woman wrote an affidavit to 22 judges of the Apex court containing the details of the alleged harassment. She wrote that the alleged incident took place on October 10 and 11th last year. As the case advanced, Supreme Court's in-house inquiry gave clean chit to the CJI. The committee had also rejected the woman's request for recording the proceedings. She also alleged in a press release that the committee had restricted her from disclosing the proceedings of the matter to the media or to even her lawyer Vrinda Grover.
Picture Credit- livelaw