The Delhi High Court on Monday discarded the plea filed by NGO Anti Corruption Council of India seeking restriction on media from reporting on the sexual harassment accusation case filed against  Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The HC bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon said the apex court is already amidst the proceedings of the case and no external intervention is needed.

The NGO officials claim that the reporting on allegations against CJI Gogoi are directly affecting the Indian Judicial System and so they must be cordoned. The petition sought immediate restriction on the media from further televising or publishing the allegations till conclusion of the three-judge panel’s inquiry, reported News18.

On April 19, it was reported that a former Supreme Court junior assistant has accused CJI Gogoi of sexual harassment including forcefully hugging her in 2018 after which he dismissed her from duty. She wrote a sworn affidavit and sent it to 22 Supreme Court judges explaining her ordeal caused due to alleged sexual harassment and misuse of power. She also accused Gogoi of ill-treating her after she refused to succumb to his alleged sexual advances. In the affidavit, she sought immediate protection from any “coercive action” by the Delhi police and has made it evident that there is “a grave threat” to her life besides the lives of her family members.

A day after the allegations were reported, an emergency hearing was called on April 20 by a special bench of the Supreme Court.

“This is unbelievable. I don’t think I should stoop low even to deny these allegations,” the Chief Justice, who was heading the three judge bench, said during the hearing, and added he will not pass any orders and the senior most judge Arun Mishra will dictate the order. He also added that the independence of the judiciary is “under threat” and it “cannot be made a scapegoat”. The Secretary General (SG) of the Supreme Court also categorically refuted the claims calling the charges made against CJI Gogoi “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous”.

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Since the allegations, associations connected to the Supreme Court have condemned the procedure with which the matter was dealt in the Supreme Court raising questions around the fact that CJI Gogoi headed the very bench constituted to hear a case against him. And then when the proceeds were uploaded on the SC website, it did not have CJI Gogoi’s name on it. These collectives include Women in Criminal Law Association and Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA).

The petition sought immediate restriction on the media from further televising or publishing he allegations till conclusion of the three-judge panel’s inquiry 

Now the apex court has constituted a three judge panel consisting of Justices Indu Malhotra, S A Bobde and Indira Banerjee to inquire into the matter. Even, this three judge panel had caused worry to the petitioner as earlier Justice NV Ramana was a part of the panel instead of Justice Indu Malhotra, but she raised objection against his participation claiming he is “a close friend of the CJI and like a family friend to him”, and that she “fears” her “affidavit and evidence will not receive an objective and fair hearing”, that he recused himself from the panel.

Post this, Justice NV Ramana exited the panel and wrote a letter to the SC clarifying his intention to opt out of the bench as he wrote that his remission “is only based on an intent to avoid any suspicion that this institution will not conduct itself in keeping with the highest standards of judicial propriety and wisdom”.

Picture credit- NDTV

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