CHENNAI: In the wake of nationwide protests after an in-house committee constituted by the Supreme Court absolved India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi of sexual misconduct, Swarna Rajagopalan, founder-trustee of Prajnya raised concerns on whether the due process was followed in investigating the allegations.
In a discussion organised by the Network of Women in Media, India, on Monday, Swarna said, “A Gender Sensitization Internal Complaints Committee has been listed in the Supreme Court website but the complaint has not gone to them and has been investigated by an informal committee, instead.”
Ironically, the same Supreme Court that had promulgated the Vishakha guidelines which was later superseded by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, had failed to adhere to the rules, she said.
Swarna raised concerns on the basis of Gogoi’s exoneration, especially when the complainant withdrew from the proceedings as she felt ‘she was not likely to get justice’ from the committee.
“We don’t know the rationale behind the conclusion that there is no substance in the allegations. While there is usually a confidentiality clause, in this case, it does not seem that due process has been followed right from the beginning,” she said.
She said that if arriving at a conclusion without the presence of the complainant would be deemed unacceptable in any other organisation, it should be unacceptable when it came to the Supreme Court too.
Speaking about the internal complaints committee mandated in an organisation, she said awareness training was an important part of complying with the law.
“If only senior members were present in the committee, the complainant would feel nervous,” she said and added that the committee was not a court and was a fact-finding team that should make their report available to both the accused and the complainant.
In this case, the complainant had alleged she did not receive a copy of the report and that it was given only to the accused. Giving the CJI a clean chit, the in-house committee had said there was ‘no substance’ in the allegations made by the complainant.