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Judiciary: SC closes suo motu probe in case against ex-CJI Gogoi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday closed the suo motu proceedings to probe a ‘larger conspiracy’ to frame former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in an alleged sexual harassment case filed against him by a woman employee in 2019.

The top court had registered the suo motu case to examine the alleged conspiracy against the judiciary after the allegations of sexual harassment against the then CJI became public in April 2019.

An SC bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said the possibility of retrieving electronic records is very less in the probe as nearly two years have passed.

The bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said that the Justice (retd) AK Patnaik panel was not able to get electronic records like WhatsApp messages to probe into the conspiracy and hence no purpose would be served by continuing with the case.

The woman employee, who had joined the Supreme Court’s service in May 2014, had claimed victimization for resisting unwelcome advances when she was posted at the residential office of the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi in October 2018.

Soon after the controversy erupted in April 2019, the office of the Supreme Court Secretary-General had, in a statement, “denied” the charges, calling them “absolutely false and scurrilous”. Justice Gogoi had termed the complaint as an attempt to “deactivate” the office and a conspiracy to threaten the independence of the judiciary.

An inquiry into the woman’s complaint by an In-House Committee, comprising Justices S A Bobde (the current CJI), Indu Malhotra, and Indira Banerjee, had, however, “found no substance” in her charges and gave a clean chit to the former CJI.

“The In-House Committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the Complaint dated 19.4.2019 of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India”, said a May 6, 2019 notice by the office of the Supreme Court Secretary-General.

It also said that “in case of Indira Jaising v/s Supreme Court of India and Anr. (2003) 5 SCC 494, it has been held that the Report of a Committee constituted as a part of the In-House Procedure is not liable to be made public.”

The women staffer, who had withdrawn from the proceedings of the inquiry committee on the ground that she was not allowed legal representation, had expressed disappointment over the findings.

(VP)

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