STATEMENT DEMANDING FAIR INQUIRY INTO THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA
20.04.2019
Today, troubling allegations of Sexual Harassment against the Chief Justice of India have come in the public domain. The contents of these allegations aside, what is even more troubling is the “first response” of the Respondent-CJI, his brother judges, and the two foremost Law Officers of the Country.

Ostensibly on a “Mention” being made by the Solicitor General, a Special Court or Bench comprising of the Chief Justice himself and Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjeev Khanna was constituted. The Ld. Attorney General and Solicitor General were also present in Court. The subject of the day, “to deal with a matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary.” Even before the allegations properly came to light, the stated purpose of the Court sitting sought to change the conversation.

We believe that the Complaint should be treated as per procedure and principles of fairness and justice, including the fundamental right to equality before law. The said procedure must be in accordance with the "In House Procedure" applicable to the Judges of the Supreme Court and the letter and spirit of the POSH Act, the Supreme Court Sexual Harassment Regulations, 2013 & service rules if applicable. The Complainant ought to have the utmost opportunity to present her case, as must the Respondent to present his defence. It is our opinion that, due to the immense disparity in power and position, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India cannot continue to hold office during the inquiry. Needless to say, the inquiry must take place at the earliest and with unimpeachable and transparent process in order to preserve the dignity of our Apex Court. To this end, the Complainant must be protected from all coercive action and online harassment during the pendency of the inquiry.

The proceedings of the Supreme Court today have been live-tweeted and betray a supposition on the part of those present that the Complaint is motivated. The Ld. Justices present today, the Secretary General, as well as the AG and SG ought therefore to be excluded from any further inquiry to preserve neutrality and fairness. Furthermore, the record of proceedings or “Order” of the day (which does not reflect the presence or submissions of the Chief Justice) ought to be corrected to reflect the true constitution and purpose of the bench.

We also seek to distance ourselves from the statements published on behalf of the Bar Council of India and various Bar Associations that label the allegations as “false” without any inquiry. It is stated that the said stance is not echoed by several members of the legal community and the Bar, including but not limited to those that endorse this statement.

* The Women in Criminal Law Association (WCLA) adopts this statement. The WCLA is a collaborative group for women in criminal litigation that aims to share knowledge, build skills, and create inclusive professional networks.

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