By Anusha Itnal
Next to a busy street in the heart of Bengaluru, around 30 women and a few men stood in silence, with black bands tied around their mouths. Most of them were holding placards and banners that read ‘Supreme Injustice’ and ‘Gogoi Gotta Go.’
On Tuesday evening, people gathered at Mud Tank in Bengaluru’s Richmond Town to carry out a silent protest mirroring one that was held in the national capital – to protest against the clean chit given to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in the sexual harassment case against him. On Monday, the in-house panel, formed to probe the allegations against the CJI, stated that it had found ‘no substance’ in the allegations.
At Mud Tank, activists Brinda Adige, Tara Krishnaswamy and comedian and writer Radhika Vaz joined the protests.
“This is not just a miscarriage of justice, because this is not a case that has come up in court, but this is blatant impunity that is being portrayed by the judges of the highest court that they can get away with anything,” said Brinda Adige, speaking to TNM, adding that the panel formed was not in line with the Supreme Court’s own guidelines under the POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) Act.
“The Supreme Court has treated this woman (the complainant) as an absolute scapegoat. If the Supreme Court is going to sit on a high horse and break the rules and laws that they themselves propagate, what do they expect the citizens to do? I think it is not only shameful but also atrocious that they can get away with anything without having regard to the Constitution, the institution and certainly no regard to the citizens,” stated Brinda Adige.
Rashi, a criminologist, stated that the silent protest in the city was against the failure of the judicial system to hear women’s voices.
“During the Me Too movement, there was a backlash against a lot of women for sharing their stories on social media and not making official complaints, well, here is an example of somebody who did follow the procedure and this is what happens. This is exactly why women don’t go ahead and complain because they know nothing really will come out of it. This protest is for the failure of the judicial system to hear women’s voices,” Rashi told TNM.
Speaking to TNM, Tara Krishnaswamy, the co-founder of the Shakti and Citizens for Bengaluru, stated that when the Supreme Court does not follow their own laws, it is a huge letdown for the women of the country.
“The accused is making public statements about the character of the woman, claiming she has criminal cases against her, she has been denied her the right to legal representation, she has not seen the report – there are just too many egregious things,” Tara said.
Comedian and writer Radhika Vaz said, “What shocked and disgusted me the most was the fact that CJI’s wife allegedly asked the victim to rub her nose on the ground and apologise.”
Satya Prasoon, an employee at the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) called the dismissal of the charges a “sham of a procedure.”
“The SC formed an informal committee to deny all rights to the victim, they did not take into account the power difference between the victim and the CJI. This protest must go inside the court, the lawyers and young advocates, public officers that appear before the SC should take action until justice Gogoi recuses himself from all the administrative matters,” said Satya Prasoon.
The protests in Delhi held on Tuesday morning saw several activists, lawyers and even members of the media being detained for about four hours at the Mandir Marg police station.
The complainant, a former Supreme Court staffer, had submitted a sworn affidavit to 22 judges on April 19, accusing CJI Gogoi of sexually harassing her on two occasions in October 2018. An in-house panel, headed by Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, was formed to look into the allegations and on May 5, dismissed the charges of sexual harassment against CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
On Tuesday, the complainant in the case sought a copy of the report filed by the committee that found “no substance” in her allegations.
“I have a right to know how, why and on what basis have your Lordships found my complaint to have ‘no substance’,” the complainant has said in a statement, adding she was “deeply shocked” on the outcome of the committee’s findings.