In an unusual hearing called on a moment’s notice on April 20, 2019, the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi responded to the allegations of sexual harassment against him, saying "judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat".
Sitting in a special Bench constituted instantly after allegations of sexual harassment against him were published in the media, Chief Justice Gogoi said, “This is unbelievable. I should not stoop low even in denying it. Rs. 6.8 lakh is all I have as bank balance...
They cannot catch me on money, so they have brought up this. This is the reward a Chief Justice of India gets after 20 years and a bank balance of Rs. 6.8 lakh. Independence of judiciary is under very very serious threat. I had to tell this from the judicial seat.”
"Why do you think any sane person decides to become a judge? Reputation is all that matters for a judge. If that is also under attack, what is left?" Chief Justice Gogoi asked his assembled courtroom.
He also recounted the allegations made against him, while stating that four online publications have published the story, “Scroll, Wire, Caravan and Leaflet [published the story]. I was given ten hours to respond to the allegations,” he said.
Justice Arun Mishra, who along with Justice Sanjeev Khanna formed the CJI's companion judges on the Bench, termed the allegations both "wild and baseless".
Besides them, Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta also took a very serious view of the matter.
Mr. Mehta called the allegations "rubbish". Mr. Venugopal said not only the judges but lawyers were also under attack for representing their clients. He said the media reports have violated the dictates of absolute confidentiality required in such allegations.
The sudden rush of the events transpired after some news websites published online an article about a former Supreme Court employee accusing Chief Justice Gogoi of making sexual advances towards her while she was working as a junior court assistant last year.
The 35-year-old woman, complained of subsequent police harassment against her and her family when she had raised her voice about it. She alleged that she was unceremoniously dismissed from service. The former employee, the reports said, had written to 22 Supreme Court judges on April 19, 2019, about her allegations.
One of the websites reported that the Secretary General of the Supreme Court had denied her claims and called them “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous”.
On calling the urgent hearing, the Chief Justice Gogoi said, “The responsibility of calling this hearing is mine. We had to take this extraordinary and unusual step because things have gone too far. Judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat.”
While alleging that it was an attempt to shackle judiciary, Chief Justice Gogoi said he would continue to perform his duties without fear or favour till the end of his tenure and would not be cowed down.
At the end of the half-hour hearing, the CJI said he would not pass any judicial order in the matter and left it to Justice Mishra to take the lead and do what was necessary.
"My colleague here is probably the senior most among us... I will not pass any orders in this matter. I leave it to him," Chief Justice Gogoi said, referring to Justice Mishra.
To which, Justice Mishra said there was no need to pass a judicial order in the case.
“We are not passing any judicial order at this moment. We however ask media to show restraint, responsibility and wisdom so that independence of judiciary is not affected by baseless allegations,” Justice Mishra said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the court to allow him to register formal proceedings, however, the Chief Justice did not agree and said whatever judicial orders, if required, may be passed at an appropriate time in the future.