The unprecedented hearing by a three-judge bench following sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi by a former apex court employee was a violation of procedure established by law , the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) said on Monday. The SCBA also demanded a non-partisan enquiry into the matter and resolved to collate all the materials and facts with regard to the allegations from social media, electronic media, print media and other available sources and discuss the issue in its next meeting.
The Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association (SCAORA), the body of lawyers who are entitled to file cases in the SC, also expressed deep reservation against procedural impropriety shown by the CJI in dealing with the charges against him. The matter, it said, should be dealt with as per established procedure of law .
On Saturday, the Council of India had condemned the false and cooked up allegations against Gogoi and claimed that the entire bar was standing with him and against the attempt to malign the institution . The Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association (SCEWA) also lent support to the CJI, as it strongly condemned the false, fabricated and baseless allegations aimed at maligning the institution of judiciary . Meanwhile, it was almost business as usual on Monday, with the day starting with the lawyers mentioning cases for urgent hearing.
Gogoi presided over the first court along with justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. However, all the benches started hearing the cases at 10:45am, 15 minutes later than the usual time, thus leading to speculation that a full court meeting might have taken place.
Allegations of sexual harassment had prompted the Chief Justice to convene an urgent extraordinary hearing on Saturday in which he asserted that the charges by a former staffer were unbelievable and part of a conspiracy by some bigger force to deactivate the CJI s office.
Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave wrote in a newspaper, The constitutions of the bench, of course in the exercise of the power of the Master of the Rolls, Chief Justice Gogoi himself styling it as a matter of great importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary , and permitting mention by the Solicitor General are all acts done by the CJI contrary to nemo judex in causa sua (no-one should be a judge in his own case).
Terming as unusual, extraordinary and unlawful the hearing into the matter by a three-judge bench headed by the CJI himself, senior lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi said that an impartial enquiry alone would test the veracity of sexual harassment allegations against the CJI and strengthen the independence of judiciary. Dwivedi felt that the CJI should stop functioning when and if the enquiry committee finds a prima facie case against him. But enquiry, if avoided, would be a serious setback to Independence of Judiciary .
On Independence of Judiciary as a basic feature of the Constitution, he said, it is a concept which ensures functional independence from the influence of the Executive, Parliament and outside influences. If this protects the judges from misdemeanours then it is going to be a disaster as judges right down to the District Courts can then use this to brush aside serious charges.