Tathagata Satpathy … Comment

THE HIGHEST seat of Indian judiciary is again under a cloud – something that should not be happening in an atmosphere where faith on the judiciary seems to be dwindling. Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, who, along with senior justices Jasti Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, and Kurian Joseph had created history by holding a press conference and making allegations against the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra over the assignment of cases, is now himself facing an allegation of sexual harassment.

The CJI, though, has denied the reports and said the judiciary was “under threat”. This is what is also seen as common occurrence. One remembers RK Pachauri of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) who had spoken similar words when a 29-year-old researcher in that Institute had levelled sexual harassment allegations against him. And look how the courts had reacted to that situation then (by penalizing Pachauri) and how things are shaping up now.

The Bar Council of India has condemned the allegations and described them as “false and cooked up”. Wonder how the respected lawyers of the Bar Council could reach such a strong and definite conclusion without any investigation. It may very well be possible that Justice Gogoi has been ‘set up’ by interested parties for some actions or decisions of the past for reasons unknown to the public. But it would be a travesty of justice if the allegations of the 35-year-old woman, who had worked as a junior court assistant, are ignored.

And if there has been any wrongdoing on the part of the CJI, it can be perceived as something affecting the majesty of the judiciary. It can and should be seen as something of extreme importance. With a recent history of #MeToo overtaking all walks of life in India, such an allegation against the CJI may not be taken lightly. A male dominated society, as we see in India today, would obviously wish to push such an allegation under the carpet. Most likely, as seen in the Bar Council reaction, this will be hushed up and forgotten by simply taking it out of media limelight. Fact that the woman has gone on to submit affidavits stating her ‘plight’ to all justices of the highest court and that it has come out in the open, point to the possibility that the CJI may have done something which gave courage to an ordinary person to raise a finger against him.

The question that remains, though, is of proof of such misconduct which will be very difficult to come by now. Given the fact that the woman was dismissed from service and has raised the complaint much after, provides enough fire power to the ‘men’ to claim her allegations are suspect. It is often seen — as was the case with the MeToo movement — that women come out with allegations against men often many years after they faced harassment. The reason for this is primarily that we are living in a society that is inherently intolerant of women. Some victims are seen as conniving and mischievous simply because they raise their voices against oppression and injustice. The fear of reprisals often prevents women from coming out in the open with such matters. The situation is complex and it is unclear whether adequate checks and balances are in place to ensure that no person who has actually suffered abuse is denied justice.

It is important that justice is served at all costs. It must also be seen to it that justice is delivered in time to protect faith in the judiciary. These are times when institutions are being destroyed from within and without by different forces. As these forces prevail, it is not surprising to see the people at the helm of such institutions getting corrupted or being seen to be corrupt. The axe has fallen again at the root of a revered institution. It needs protection before the damage becomes irreversible. All forces, with political and judicial powers and huge amounts of money, would have taken up the self-appointed task of destroying that single helpless woman by now.

Sadly, there is no power in this country that can be impartial in its investigations against the CJI, nor can we, the average citizens, ever hope for justice when the highest authority of the judicial system himself is tainted.
–The writer was chief whip of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the lower house of the outgoing Parliament, and owner-cum-Editor of Dharitri and Orissa Post, based out of Bhubaneswar. –IHN-NN

INDIA HERE AND NOW http://www.indiahereandnow.com email:indianow999@gmail.com

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