Slamming the Bar Council of India Chairman's statement questioning the motives of the woman who had levelled sexual harassment allegations against the CJI and endorsing the clean chit given to CJI by the in-house panel, the Maharastra Students Law Association(MASLA) has written to him.
"You choose to protect this male-centric edifice by not questioning it, when questions need to be asked, however uncomfortable these may be", states the letter penned by Deepa Punjani, Executive Committee Member of the MASLA
In response to the Chairman's appeal to protect the dignity of judiciary by 'dropping this episode from minds', the letter states :
"The very dignity and the sanctity of our judiciary that you refer to cannot be maintained by secrecy. The institution of the judiciary, if anything, has only been damaged by the way this situation has been handled from the very beginning".
It goes on to add :
"The institution of our judiciary is not a mere brick and mortar building for those who advocate the legal profession. Lawyers and judges are also citizens but their vocation demands greater responsibility when they study and pledge upon the Constitution. The dignity then lies in this first rite of passage and must be found intact till the very end from which no one is immune, not even the Hon'ble CJI"
In an 'appeal' made to the members of legal fraternity, the BCI Chairman Manan Mishra had urged to "drop this episode from your minds and gossips".
The Association asserts that due process ought to have been followed by maintaining transparency, and expresses the view that the in-house committee ought to have taken into consideration the demands made by the complainant for legal representation, and compliance of process under POSH Act and Visakha guidelines.
The letter sharply criticises Chairman's jibes at the complainant which were to the effect that the woman was not a "simple lady" and that the complaint was a "dirty game".
In this context, the Association asks the following questions :
"Which "dirty game" are you referring to? Is the demand for the report, a "dirty game"? Is it a "dirty game" merely because the woman-complainant's allegations concern the Hon'ble CJI? Is it to be taken for granted that the woman-complainant's allegations are a "dirty game"?Does the BCI purport to speak on behalf of the "Mass"?Why do you say that this woman is not a "simple lady"?What exactly are you implying when you say "there was/is some backing/support…? Can you please substantiate this?"
In response to the Chairman's statement that the Committee comprising "two very noble, fair, polite and soft spoken Lady judges…" found no substance in the complainant's allegations, the Association says that "the demand is not against their verdict. It is for their report".
They have also taken strong objection to the Chairman's comment that "judges themselves are responsible for such unfortunate situation". The Chairman was alluding to the judicial approach followed in women-centric provisions such as Sections 354, 376 and 498A of IPC, where the version of the woman is given more weightage. The Chairman also hinted that most often such provisions are misused.
"It is sad to note that in making these suggestions you have completely dismissed the vast victimisation of women in different ways, not to mention the physical and mental violence that often accompany these crimes, and the culpability of their families. The social realities as they exist must be thoroughly studied before sweeping claims can be made to do away with provisions that safeguard women"
Saying that law students are also carefully watching the developments and asking questions, the letter adds that they "care for our judiciary"
"We have been called disrupters, but we fear that it is our judiciary that is set on an auto-destruct path", it states.