New Delhi, Apr 20: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Saturday said that “reputation” is the only thing which a judge has and if it will be attacked on baseless allegations of sexual harassment, no “sane person” will come forward to take up judgeship.
“If such things will happen then no judge is going to decide matters. He (judge) will say why should I decide. Then I will come (in the court) and simply adjourn the cases. Why will any sane person want to become a judge? Reputation is the only thing which a judge has,” the CJI said.
Justice Gogoi was speaking during a specially convened hearing on Saturday in the Supreme Court where he heard the matter along with Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna.
The CJI said that after being a judge for around two decades, he had a bank balance of Rs 6.80 lakh.
“I have a bank balance of Rs 6.80 lakh. There is Rs 21.80 lakh in my bank account out of which Rs 15 lakh has been given by my daughter for the repair of my house at Guwahati. I have around Rs 40 lakh in provident fund. These are my total assets,” he said.
“When I had become a judge, I had much more,” he said, adding, “Nobody can catch me on money. People have to find something and they have found this”.
“If judges have to work under these conditions then, I have always said in my public meetings, that good people will not come forward to take up the job. My peon has got more money than me,” he said.
The CJI alleged that the woman has a criminal record and two FIRs were lodged against her. When she was employed with the apex court, an FIR was pending against her, Justice Gogoi said.
“How can she become a Supreme Court staff when an FIR was pending against her,” the CJI said, adding that two criminal cases were also pending against her husband.
A third FIR was registered against her following which she was arrested, he said, adding that after getting bail, she threatened the complainant of the third case with dire consequences.
He said the woman was in jail for four days because of her criminal record and she was warned by the police a couple of times to maintain good behaviour.
“I felt that this should be told from the highest seat of judiciary,” he said, adding, “Independence of judiciary is under very, very serious threat. It is pathetic”.
The CJI said that police has moved a trial court here seeking cancellation of the bail granted to the woman and the matter was listed for hearing before a lower court Saturday itself.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the court that earlier also two such instances had come into light, one against a former apex court judge and other against a senior advocate, and in these cases the media was asked not to publish anything.
“The CJI’s today’s statement should get the widest publicity as possible,” he said.
Venugopal said the law contemplated that name of either the complainant or the respondent should not be published in such cases but the news portals, which have carried out the allegations, have “brazenly published” it.
He also said that being the attorney general, he was being attacked by a lawyer for defending the government in a case.
“The lawyer said they were disappointed with the court’s order…What was he insinuating?,” Venugopal said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that it “appears to be a sheer blackmail technique” and there was a need to conduct probe against the “unscrupulous lady”.
“In a probe, we can find a similar pattern. News was published within an hour,” Mehta said, adding, “Such rubbish has been published”.
To this, the CJI said, “The responsibility of holding this special sitting is mine being the CJI. I have taken this unusual and extraordinary step because things have gone too far. The judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat.”
During the hearing, Justice Mishra said that there was concern about independence of judiciary as people have faith in the judicial system of the country.
Justice Sanjiv Khanna said that judges have to decide the cases and they cannot be put under such kind of strain.
“The employee was dismissed from service following proper procedure. Suddenly they have woken up and levelled such allegations,” Justice Khanna said.
At the fag end of hearing, the solicitor general told the bench, “Please register an appropriate proceedings in my name.”
To this, the CJI said, “Leave it to the media to exercise restrain and act responsibly. Whatever further judicial orders are required to be passed, we will see later”.
During the hearing, the CJI also said that every employee in the apex court is treated fairly and decently.
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