Allegations against the Chief Justice of India
On 19 April 2019, a former junior female employee of the Supreme Court of India accused the Chief Justice RanjanGogoi of sexual harassment in an affidavit sent to the residence of 22 Supreme Court judges. In the affidavit, she allegedly mentioned two incidents of sexual harassment committed by Gogoi while she was stationed in the residence office of the Chief Justice.
On 20 April 2019, when allegations were reported in the media, the Supreme Court of India held a special sitting.
Thereafter, the Supreme Court Registry circulated a notice in the same morning concerning the constitution of a three-judge special bench to deal with the allegations. The Bench was comprised of the Chief Justice RanjanGogoi, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna headed by CJ Gogoi himself against whom allegations were made.
The constitution of the Bench comprising of Chief Justice himself to hear the issue created an outcry in the legal forum. Many senior advocates of the Supreme Court criticised the constitution of the bench as well as the hearing of the matter and went on to say that the incident is nothing short of a travesty of justice, against the procedures established by law and the principles of natural justice. Though hearing of the allegations in the bench was presided over by Chief Justice Gogoi, he recused himself while passing the order.
The women to bring the allegations on Tuesday said that she would no longer participate in the proceedings of a judges' panel investigating the case as she does not expect justice, and she quit the probe.
The Chief Justice Gogoi himself sensustricto appeared violative of the principles of natural justice. Three basic pillars of the principles of natural justice are
n Nemo in propriacausajudex, essedebet -No one should be made a judge in his own case
n Audi alterampartem- Hear the other party or no one should be condemned unheard
n Justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly be appeared or seen to be done.
Whether allegations made against the Chief Justice are true or false is immaterial to trace out the violative elements of natural justice occurred in the bench constituted and the hearing thereof. Firstly, the Bench was constituted comprising of CJ that is the violation of the first principle of natural justice as it vociferously speaks as "no one should be made a judge in his own case". But CJ Gogoi presiding and being a member of the constituted Bench patently violated the first principle of natural justice.
Secondly, during the hearing, no notice was served to the complainant to be present in the court that is the violation of the second principle of natural justice i.e., 'no one should be condemned unheard." Not only that CJ made derogatory remarks regarding the complaints made against him that Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association opined as a patent instance of judicial impropriety and against the principles established by law. The entire proceedings ensued inside the supreme court of India on 20 April 2019 in regard to the allegations is violative of the third principle of natural justice incorporated as "Justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly be appeared or seen to be done." The exercise of judicial powers by the Chief Justice in this manner is unexpected.
The father of Indian constitution, Dr B. R Ambedkar while speaking before the Constituent Assembly on 24 May 1949 appears to have been rationalized when he rightly said, "I personally feel no doubt that the Chief Justice is a very eminent person. But after all the Chief Justice is a man with all the failings, all the sentiments and all the prejudices which we as common people have".
Though AsokPande v. Supreme Court of India &Ors (Civil Writ Petition No 147 of 2018) stated that, "The entrustment of functions to the Chief Justice as the head of the institution is with the purpose of securing the position of the Supreme Court as an independent safeguard for the preservation of personal liberty. There cannot be a presumption of mistrust".
However, when the Chief Justice of India acts in violation of the most basic principles of natural justice, judicial propriety and procedure established by law, these acts impel people to generate mistrust among the mass people.
Tarek Rahman is pursuing LLM at South Asian University, India