“A matter of great importance touching upon judiciary’s independence”

In 2019, a junior woman staffer accused then chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment and, subsequently, a targeted harassment of her and her family. The Pegasus revelations tell us that her phone and that of 11 phones associated with her was likely under surveillance along with those of 10 prime ministers, 3 presidents and one king.

Ranjan Gogoi, former chief justice of India is now a member of the Rajya Sabha, nominated by the ruling BJP-led government. Pic: Wikipedia

At the height of the 2019 sexual harassment scandal involving then chief justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, ran the frisson of a rumour — was there a larger conspiracy?

Gogoi has since retired and is now a Rajya Sabha member nominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. His accuser, after being dismissed from service, has been quietly reinstated.

All would have been forgotten but for the Pegasus revelation that the woman and 11 phone numbers associated with her were potential targets of surveillance. Who had the power to subject a junior court assistant to a level of global scrutiny that reportedly includes 10 prime ministers, three presidents and a king? Was the intended target someone else? Was there a quid pro quo? One can only speculate since Gogoi has refused to comment.

On A Mission To Save The World

Despite the hardships they face, teenage girls are on a mission to save the world.

Representational Image

One is on a zero-carbon Atlantic voyage to attend climate change conferences in New York. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist who inspired a global youth movement, has reported dolphin sightings – and, mercifully, no sea sickness, yet.

Another, in Samastipur, Bihar, triggers a movement just by saying no to marriage. In a state where 39.1% of girls marry before they turn 18, the 16-year-old tells her parents she’d rather study. With support from Child Rights and You (CRY), she is now inspiring others to take a similar stand.

A Master of Laws gold medallist at the National Law University, Surbhi Karwa, finds herself in a “moral quandary” over receiving her award from chief justice, Ranjan Gogoi. “The institution he heads failed when sexual harassment allegations were made against him,” she tells The Indian Express.

Young girls seem to be on an unsung mission to save the world. They’re out there on the field kicking a ball, fighting for their right to go to school, or taking moral positions against injustice.

Disorder in the House

My Hindustan Times column looks at what is perhaps the biggest scandal to hit the Supreme Court with the Chief Justice of India accused of sexual harassment. 

Their lordships have sworn to uphold Constitutional values of equality and dignity. Their courtrooms have delivered landmark judgments, like Vishaka, which affirmed women’s right to a safe workplace and preceded the law on sexual harassment by 16 years.

Now, one of its own, a first among equals, stands accused of sexual harassment. A signed affidavit by a former Supreme Court employee sits on the desk of 22 Supreme Court judges. It alleges not just sexual harassment but the targeted victimisation of the woman and her family for rebuffing the advances of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi in October last year, she says.

This was the apex court’s chance to shine. Instead, it has lurched from crisis to crisis.

Within days, the CJI himself sat in on an extraordinary Saturday hearing to look into a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary”. If the charge of sexual harassment is unprecedented, so is the use of a Supreme Court bench to launch a personal defence and malign a complainant.

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