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Arun Shourie slams SC, says probe panel acted as ‘members of club’ in CJI harassment case

By refusing to give the complainant a copy of the report of the in-house Inquiry Committee, the top court has acted like the CBI, Shourie said.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Judges of the In-House Inquiry Committee of the top court, which gave a clean chit to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on the allegations of sexual harassment against him, has done grave “injustice to the complainant, the CJI and the Supreme Court as an institution,” former Union Minister Arun Shourie said on Wednesday.

Shourie alleged that the members of the inquiry panel were acting as the “members of a club”.

“In the current controversy in sexual harassment allegations made against the CJI, the three judges who were asked to investigate the matter have behaved like the members of a club. They have done grave injustice to the complainant, the CJI and to the Supreme Court as an institution,” he said.

The former minister and veteran journalist, who was delivering his fourth ”Nani Palkhivala lecture, said that because of the infirmities in the whole procedure of dealing with the allegations, doubts will always linger that the three members of the committee were shielding the CJI which will corrode the credibility.

“Because of the infirmities and manifested inequities in the procedure, doubt will always linger, however unjustified, that the three judges were shielding him (CJI). He may not have required shielding. This lingering doubt corrodes credibility.”

“Scepticism hardens into suspicion, howsoever unjustified. Why did this happen, because you have a false sense of institutional loyalty that you have to safeguard this reputation of the institution? That is the old notion of a club, not of an institution, especially not of an institution that is always talking about transparency,” he said.

The theme of the lecture was ”What should lawyers and other professionals be doing today?” and it was organised on the occasion of the noted jurist’s birth centenary.

Shourie said the three judges of the Committee have done grave “injustice to the complainant, CJI and the Supreme Court as an institution”.

By refusing to give the complainant a copy of the report of the in-house Inquiry Committee, the top court has acted like the CBI, he said.

“In CBI, they don’t give you the statement you have recorded in the case. Denying the right to a person to see even what he or she has said, which is a CBI practice has now become a Supreme Court practice,” he said.

He further claimed that in this case, the CJI did not discharge his judicial functions.

Shourie further said that because of the mentality of the present day lawyers to serve whoever comes first, “the best crooks get the best lawyers”.

“Judicial world has become a club. It is no longer an institution,” he said.

Shourie said the least the court could do in cases of sexual allegations against someone like the CJI was to set and make public the procedure that one should follow.

“The Supreme Court lays down guidelines in a judgement (Vishakha guidelines) but it will not apply to it. Elementary things like video and audio recording of the procedure, copy to be given to lawyers, the accused and the complainant, must be worked out. There should be a standing committee of three judges. So that there is no apprehension that some special judges are being selected for the special case,” he said.

The Supreme Court-appointed three-judge in-house committee on Monday said it found no substance in the sexual harassment allegations against the CJI.

The decision to give clear the CJI has come under fire as several women lawyers and activists on Tuesday protested outside the Supreme Court questioning the procedure adopted to clear the CJI in the case.

Following the verdict, the woman complainant in a statement said she is highly disappointed and that she felt gross injustice has been done to her.

She had earlier pulled out of the probe on April 30 after participating for three days.

Chief Justice Gogoi was accused of sexual assault by a former officer who worked as a junior assistant at the Supreme Court between May 2014 and December 2018.

(With PTI inputs)