“Larger conspiracy” to destabilise the judiciary: SC on sexual harassment allegations against CJI

The Special Bench of the Supreme Court on Saturday met for a special sitting to discuss online media reports of sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, saying that independence of judiciary is under “very serious threat” and there is a “larger conspiracy” to destabilise the judiciary.

“The independence of the judiciary is under very serious threat and there is a larger conspiracy to destabilise the judiciary,” the Bench said.

A Bench consisting Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna did not pass any judicial order and left it to the wisdom of the media to decide on the publication of reports in order to protect the independence of the judiciary.

“Having considered the matter, we refrain from passing any judicial order at this moment leaving it to the wisdom of the media to show restraint, act responsibly as is expected from them and accordingly decide what should or should not be published as wild and scandalous allegations undermine and irreparably damage reputation and negate independence of judiciary. We would therefore at this juncture leave it to the media to take off such material which is undesirable,” the Bench said.

Chief Justice clarified that charges against him will be examined by other senior judges and not by himself.

Justice Mishra urged the media to exercise restraint and act responsibly so that the independence of the judiciary is not affected by such “wild and baseless allegations”

“We are not passing any judicial order at this moment. We, however, ask media to show restraint, responsibility, and wisdom so that independence of the judiciary is not affected by such wild and baseless allegations”, Justice Mishra said.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice said that it was an attempt to deactivate the office of the Chief Justice of India.

“This is unbelievable. I will not stoop so low even in denying it”, Justice Gogoi said while making it clear that he will continue in his office till the end of his tenure.

Chief Justice added, “What I want to tell the citizens of this country is that the judiciary is under very very serious threat. I will sit on this Bench and discharge my duties without fear or favour.”

Gogoi further said why does a person want to become a judge, reputation is all that matters. “Why would any sane person want to become a judge? Reputation is all that we have. That is also under attack,” he said.

“There is some bigger force behind the woman who made sexual harassment charges. I am very hurt with the allegations levelled against me. I have communicated with four media houses, which have published stories against me,” he added.

Speaking on his savings, the CJI said, “A bank balance of Rs. 6,80,000 is all I have. After 20 years and Rs. 6,80,000 as bank balance this is the reward a Chief Justice of India gets.”

Justice Gogoi said that the complainant, who levelled allegations of sexual harassment, has a criminal background and two FIRs are registered against her. “If she has criminal cases against her then how did she enter the supreme court service?” he asked.

He also mentioned that he asked for a special sitting as “things have gone too far. The judiciary cannot be targeted”.

Justice Gogoi also said that employees in the Supreme Court are treated fairly and equally and these allegations surfaced, “I didn’t think it was appropriate to respond to them”.

The apex court has termed the meeting as “a matter of great public importance”. It said that it’s in the “chief justice’s court to deal with a matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary, on a mention being made by Tushar Mehta.”

Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta both were present during the hearing.

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