The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) is deeply disturbed by the manner in which the “In-House Committee” of the Supreme Court found “no substance” in the allegations of Sexual Harassment made by an ex-employee of the Supreme Court. The ex-employee had made a long complaint of 28 pages on Affidavit supported by documents and a video of how she had been sexually harassed by the CJI in October 2018 and the victimization faced by her and her husband and brother-in-law thereafter.
The enquiry by the In-House Committee was itself set up after protests from many quarters about the ‘unprecedented’ court hearing which took place when the ex-employee sent her Affidavit of Complaint to 22 of the Judges of the SC. In this hearing which was presided over by the CJI and two other judges of the SC, the Chief Justice reportedly, after remarking that the complaint was a plot to attack the independence of the judiciary and a part of a conspiracy to destabilize the judiciary, left it to the other judges to pass an order. The order stated that the allegations were “wild and scandalous”. The woman was condemned without even hearing her. The basic principle that no one can be a judge in his own case was flouted.
The In-House Committee which heard the Complaint comprised of two women and the second most Senior Judge of the Supreme Court who headed the Committee. The Committee had no external member as mandated by POSH [Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013]. It is inexplicable why a respected woman ex-Judge of the SC could not be asked to be a member. This would have been in keeping with the letter and spirit of the POSH Act and lent an air of impartiality to the enquiry. The woman complainant withdrew from the enquiry after three hearings in which she was asked to make her statement. She says she found the atmosphere unsympathetic and intimidating. Her request to come along with her lawyer or a support person was also turned down. Surely, the judges failed to understand that a mere ex-employee could not be expected to face an enquiry by SC judges given the vast difference in status and power between the two. The woman’s further request to videotape the enquiry proceedings was also turned down. Finally, she was not even given a copy of the report of the “In-House Committee” which exonerated the CJI while the CJI was sent a copy.
We feel that not allowing the woman to appear with a counsel or support person was unfair. Not giving her a copy of the report is also not following a fair procedure as the woman has no way of examining the report and what has gone against her and whether all the material given by her was examined or evidence she wanted to lead was taken into account.
AIDWA feels that in a case which involves serious allegations of sexual harassment at the workplace, the letter and spirit of the Vishaka Judgment and the POSH Act must be followed even in the case of a Supreme Court Judge and a “fair -procedure” which ensures that no one, however mighty, is above the law must be followed. Further, the Supreme Court must examine the procedure provided in the provisions pertaining to the “In-House Committee” and make amendments which ensure “fair-procedure” in these cases and also provide for how an enquiry should be conducted not only against other judges but also the CJI, which it does not at present. AIDWA stands by the ex-employee in her quest for justice. AIDWA calls upon all its units to hold protests jointly with other women’s organisations all over the country demanding a free and fair enquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment and justice for the victim.