May 6, 2019 / 12:52 PM / a year ago

Indian judges' panel clears chief justice of sexual harassment

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s Supreme Court said on Monday a panel of its judges had dismissed a complaint of sexual harassment made against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi by a former court employee, as it lacked substance.

FILE PHOTO: Ranjan Gogoi, a Supreme Court judge, gestures as he addresses the media at a news conference in New Delhi, India January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The case involving India’s most powerful judge is the most high-profile in a wave of allegations of sexual harassment that have been made public by women since last year as the #metoo movement has swept the country.

“The in-house committee found no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint,” the Supreme Court’s secretary general said in a brief statement earlier, dismissing the woman’s complaint. Her identity has been withheld.

The 35-year-old woman, who worked as a junior court assistant, said in a statement she was “not just highly disappointed and dejected” but felt “gross injustice” had been done to her by the dismissal of her complaint.

She said she was discussing her next steps with lawyers, and was “now extremely scared and terrified because the in-house committee, despite having all material placed before them, has given me no justice or protection...”.

Gogoi and members of the committee were not available for a comment.

In her complaint filed to the court last month she had alleged Gogoi had made unwanted sexual advances toward her when she worked in an office at his home last year, and that she and her family were victimised after she spurned his advances. Gogoi denied the allegations.

The nation’s top court has been criticized by women’s rights activists and many lawyers for its handling of the woman’s complaint. Gogoi has previously said the charges leveled against him were “unbelievable” and showed India’s judiciary was under threat from a wider conspiracy, without elaborating.

Last week the woman said she would no longer participate in the proceedings of the three-member panel of judges investigating the case as she was not satisfied with the way it was functioning and did not expect justice from it.

She said she had not been allowed to have her representative present despite impaired hearing and anxiety. She also said there was no video or audio recording made, and she was not given a copy of her statements on the case from previous days.

In its Monday statement, the Supreme Court said the panel’s report had been submitted to a senior judge of the court as well as to the chief justice, without elaborating. The report will not be made public, it said.

Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Zeba Siddiqui in New Delhi; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Clarence Fernandez and Peter Graff

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