19 JULY 2019
Today 100s of activists from women’s groups, democratic groups, people’s and workers’ movements and concerned citizens gathered in simultaneous protests across the country to say *90 DAYS LATER… SUPREME INJUSTICE CONTINUES!*
These protests where held to mark 90 days since a former Supreme Court employee complained about being sexually harassed and subsequently victimised by the Chief Justice of India.
In Delhi, at Jantar Mantar, over a hundred activists with innovative posters, fiery speeches and spans they spoke of how these 90 days have not only seen people in powerful positions band together to discredit the complainant and deny her a fair inquiry, but also the machinery of the state being used to threaten those speaking out against this injustice.
Immediately after the complaint, the CJI presided over a hearing in his own case, wherein the complainant was publicly maligned. Even senior government representatives joined him in declaring the complaint a conspiracy against the judiciary.
Activists also spoke about how the case has thrown up glaring loopholes in the law, including the fact that there is no effective mechanism in place to receive and act on complaints of sexual harassment or other misconduct against the CJI. The Supreme Court committee examining her complaint did not accommodate the complainant’s multiple vulnerabilities of gender, caste, disability and position. The inquiry was conducted in a manner which violated principles of natural justice and did not conform with the procedures laid down in the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act and the Supreme Court’s Vishakha guidelines. She was denied legal support, not given proper information about the procedure followed by the committee and was also denied a copy of the final report dismissing her complaint. The inquiry proceeded in an ex-parte manner, even after she withdrew from it.
In addition, the state has turned to target those who have called out this injustice. Protesters in several stateswere detained for publicly highlighting the issue. More recently, the CBI raided the house and offices of Senior Advocate Ms. Indira Jaising, one of the few senior members of the Bar who questioned the manner in which the complaint against the CJI was dealt with. This appears to be another tactic to intimidate and silence those whoare raising the issue.
We demand that:
● The complainant be given a copy of the inquiry report that exonerated the CJI;
● A fair and independent inquiry be conducted into the matter, in accordance with the principles of Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act and the Vishaka guidelines;
● The targeting of those who stand in support of the complainant and the law, like Senior Advocate, Ms. Indira Jaising, must stop immediately;
● A credible mechanism must be set up to deal with sexual harassment complaints against judges in the higher judiciary, including the CJI, in line with the principles of the POSH Act;
● Greater transparency and accountability in the judiciary must be ensured, as these are key to ensuring judicial independence.
Everyone should be equal before the law!Accountability strengthens the independence of the judiciary!
CSW, NAPM, NFIW, NNSW, PMS, Saheli, SNS, WSS, AIDWA