CJI sexual harassment case: Justice Ramana recuses himself from SC probe committee

New Delhi [India]: Supreme Court Justice NV Ramana, part of the three judges of the apex court’s in-house committee appointed to examine the allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on Thursday opted out following objections from the woman complainant.

Ramana’s recusal comes after the complainant expressed reservations about his inclusion in the committee citing that he should drop out as he is a “close friend” and “like a family member” of Gogoi.

In his letter, Ramana highlighted that he was asked to be a part of the committee on the approval of Full Court.
“Firstly, I may have pre-judged the matter based on a selective extract of my speech on the occasion of Centenary Celebrations of the High Court Building at Hyderabad, and, secondly, I am a close friend of the Chief Justice of India and like a family member to him. These grounds, according to the complainant, raise fears that her affidavit and evidence will not receive an objective and fair hearing,” he wrote.

Stating that he rejects the baseless and unfounded aspersions cast on his capacity to render impartial judgment in this matter, Raman wrote: “The grounds cited by the complainant ought not to be taken as evidence of a legitimate doubt for the following reasons: The first is the ground based on his speech on the occasion of Centenary Celebrations of the High Court Building at Hyderabad.”

The topic of the speech was “Judicial Journey – The Road Ahead”. It was decided at least two weeks prior to the receipt of the complaint in the instant matter.

“As a part of a broad analytical and factual discussion of the topic, which included discussions about the pendency of cases, use of technology and issues relating to the Bar, I also spoke about personal attacks against members of the judiciary seeking to cast aspersions on their ability to render impartial judgments. If anything, the implicit assumption of that portion of the speech was that conduct of judges ought to be exemplary so as to protect the dignity of the judicial institution from these frequent attacks,” Justice Ramana states in his letter.

Judges, therefore, ought not to be cowed down in upholding the dignity of the judiciary. The fact that this assertion, on the need to protect the dignity of the judiciary, is now being used to allege bias is a sad reflection of the state of affairs, states Ramana J.

Regarding the second apprehension that he is a close friend and like a family member of Gogoi, Justice Ramana said that he is required to attend official meetings at the residence of the CJI just like any other Supreme Court judge.

“Judges and CJI regularly meet each including socially. Moreover, the CJI is primus inter pares, who allots a variety of administrative duties and responsibilities to the Judges. Thus, the judges often meet Chief Justice of India in connection with the same. His visits to the residence of CJI cannot, therefore, suggest any proximity than what is absolutely normal under the circumstances. Thus, the apprehension expressed by the complainant in this regard is wholly misconceived,” the letter said.

He further said that he is recusing from the committee so as to avoid any suspicion that the Supreme Court will not conduct itself in keeping with the highest standards of judicial propriety and wisdom. “My recusal should be a clear message to the nation that there should be no fears about the integrity of the Supreme Court,” Ramana said.
Ramana concluded the letter stating that no one who approaches the Court should have the power to determine the forum and subvert the processes of justice.

“It is true that justice must not only be done but also manifestly seem to be done. Let me also caution, at this stage, that it is also equally true that no one who approaches the Court should have the power to determine the forum and subvert the processes of justice. Let not my recusal in the instant matter be taken to mean, even in the slightest of measures, that we have transgressed either of these principles,” he asserted.

“I wish to say nothing further,” he said.

On Tuesday, a three-member in-house committee of the apex court led by Justice S A Bobde, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, was formed to look into the allegation of sexual harassment made by the dismissed employee against Justice Gogoi.

Ramana and Justice Indira Banerjee were named as the other two members of the committee.