Justice Ramanna has observed that ‘judges have become victims of juicy gossip’ while CJI Bobde has said that independence of the judiciary is not only independence from the Executive, but also from many other pressure and prejudices. They are not wrong, but they should introspect why things are happening which did not happen before. Have the people degenerated or the conduct of the judges has degenerated? The people are the same, but the judges are not.
Two things have happened. One is that the conduct of a few judges have grievously damaged the reputation of the judiciary, and the other is that the judiciary has shown intolerable contempt for the people and has been liberally lending its ears to the government.
Let us take the case of CJI Gogoi. He was accused of sexually harassing a female staff attached to his residential office. She wrote a letter giving the details of her experience and persecution of her husband, brother in law and her own to the judges of the apex court. She had been dismissed. A criminal case was filed against her by some man from Haryana. She was sent to jail. Her husband and brother in law, who were in Delhi police were suspended. CJI Gogoi converted her letter into a writ petition, held court on a Saturday, constituted a 3- judge bench presided over by himself, made insulting remarks against the victims but did not sign the order passed by the bench. His conduct raises the following questions:
1. Was he right in treating the letter as a writ petition?
2. Was he right in being part of the bench which heard the case against him?
3. Was the bench right in hearing the case without a notice to the complainant?
4. Was the bench right in making insulting comments on the complainant in her absence?
5. And the most important of all, was the conduct of the two other judges of the bench above censure by being complicit in the misconduct of the CJI?
It was not the end of the story. A three member committee headed by Justice Bobde was formed to hear her complaint. The complainant felt she was not given a fair deal and decided to withdraw from the proceeding. The Committee found CJI innocent and the female employee’s complaint false.
The matter obviously became a close chapter for the public.
But suddenly a series of miracle began happening when CJI Gogoi departed or was departing.
1. The criminal case against the female employee was compounded.
2. The suspension of her husband and brother in law, who were in Delhi police, was withdrawan
3. The miracle of miracles was that an employee, who was found by a committee of three SC judges to have made a false complaint of sexual harassment against the CJI and was dismissed, was reinstated.
What would one think?
1. The six judges of the apex court who were part of the bench or the 3 member Committee which heard the case lack integrity.
2. The CJI Gogoi and the Executive had been working in tandem to harass the helpless employee and later to make a compromise.
3. The compromise was desperately sought to ensure that the victim did not file a criminal case of sexual harassment against CJI Gogoi after he retired.
4. The collusion between CJI Gogoi and the government became evident when Gogoi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
Conclusion : Can the judges blame the people for finding the judgments on Rafael, Ram Mandir, CBI etc. a give and take?
I have just shared my view of the sordid drama. Is it a juicy remark on the judges or a pressure on them? No. It is just that the ivory tower in which the judges live is not opaque. They are seen and judged, and if their conduct is above board, there would neither be juicy gossips nor undue pressure.
Prabhakar Sinha is a political commentator from Muzaffarpur, Bihar.