Chief Justice must subject himself to institutional inquiry on harassment allegations

Rekha Sharma
To skirt the issue and to bypass the institutional mechanism would be neither judicious nor ethical. Let the truth come out

The Chief Justice of India is in the eye of a storm. Serious allegations of sexual harassment have been levelled against him by someone from within the judicial system. These are critical times, when allegations are flying thick and fast through the media - both mainstream and online social networks. In the recent past, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, no less a person than the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, had to step down because of allegations of sexual harassment against him, pertaining to incidents which happened many years ago.

The Chief Justice of India is a man of the law. It will do him no good, nor to the institution which he is heading, if the issue is shoved under the carpet. His Lordship must adhere to the law as laid down by the Supreme Court itself, and himself volunteer to face an inquiry by a Sexual Harassment Committee of the Supreme Court, which we understand is in place. Already, there is a feeling that the law is differently applied to different people. No one in authority should allow such a feeling to breed, least of all the Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court must follow in letter and spirit the same yardstick of accountability which it applies to others.

Those amongst us who want the allegations to be rubbished as malicious, scandalous and frivolous are doing no service at all, either to the Chief Justice or to the institution - the highest court in the land. They must always remember the maxim:

"Be you ever so high, the law is always above you."

Editorial | How SC responds to the sexual harassment complaint will test its institutional integrity

In an article in this newspaper, 'Challenges for the next CJI' (IE, September 8, 2018), in a different context then, I had written that the Chief Justice of India enjoys the reputation of being a no-nonsense man. And this view, I still believe, is shared by many of us. It is now hoped that he would live upto this reputation, and not let any personal or emotional considerations get the better of him. The only way he can steer clear of the allegations, howsoever frivolous, scandalous and malicious they may be, is to subject himself to an inquiry. No one should have any misgivings about the Sexual Harassment Committee as it comprises none other than the justices of the Supreme Court. Why, then, scuttle the due process of law? Let the law take its own course.

By the way, the response of the Supreme Court, so far, has been disappointing. Nobody knows why a three-judge bench was constituted on the mentioning of, we are told, by the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The issue, in the first place, is required to be dealt with on the administrative side. Without being repetitious, it has to be emphasised that the matter must go to the Sexual Harassment Committee. We hope, pray and trust that the Chief Justice of India will be able to vindicate his stand and the current spate of allegations turn out to be malicious, false and motivated, as is being alleged. To skirt the issue and to bypass the institutional mechanism would be neither judicious nor ethical. Let the truth come out.

- This article first appeared in the April 24, 2019 print edition under the title ‘Let the truth prevail’

The writer is a former judge of the Delhi High Court.
Views expressed are personal