New Delhi: In a sensational turn of events, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Saturday strongly denied charges of sexual harassment against him, and described the complaint by a former court staff as a bigger plot aimed at attacking the office of the CJI and independence of the judiciary.
A special bench of the Supreme Court today called an emergency hearing after a former employee at the top court, in an affidavit to several Supreme Court judges, alleged she was sexually harassed by the chief justice.
"There is nothing more valuable than reputation of a judge. And when that is attacked, it becomes shocking... independence of judiciary is under very very serious threat. If the judges have to work under these conditions, good people will never come to this office," said the CJI.
Visibly upset after the woman's complaint was reported in detail by at least four web portals, the CJI made it clear that he was not going to be a part of the committee that will examine the charges against him.
"The issue (of sexual harassment charges) will be considered by my brothers. Other senior judges will look at it, not me. But I had to convene this bench as my responsibility. I have taken this unusual step to say that the judiciary is under threat," Justice Gogoi told Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Chief Justice Gogoi alleged a conspiracy behind the allegations and said, "There has to be bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate office of Chief Justice".
The Chief Justice said the allegations had cropped up as he is scheduled to hear important cases in the Supreme Court next week. "I will sit on this chair and discharge my judicial functions without any fear... Things have gone too far. Judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat," he said.
I have a bank balance of Rs 6.8 lakh. Even my peon has more assets than me. I am saying all this because I am extremely hurt. And this, I thought, should be told from the highest seat of judiciary."
The CJI also narrated in detail the antecedents of the woman complainant and how two FIRs were lodged against her and that the court administration had also forwarded a complaint to the Delhi Police about her verification.
"I don't think this can be a plot of a junior court assistant. There is a bigger plot. They want to deactivate the office of the CJI," said Justice Gogoi, pointing out his bench is scheduled to hear some important cases next week and that this could be an attempt to dissuade him from hearing these matters.
The CJI also named the four portals - Scroll, Leaflet, The Wire and The Caravan - who he said went ahead with publishing the unverified charges by a woman with criminal antecedents and said there runs a common thread among them.