[Update : The earlier report had stated that Delhi Police imposed curfew under Section 144 CrPC after the protests. On contacting the Delhi DCP later, it was known that Section 144 remains imposed in the area all the time, it being a high security area and that the protesters were detained for violating the prohibitory orders. The report is accordingly modified. The error is regretted]
Groups of lawyers and activists assembled outside the Supreme Court today morning to protest against the clean chit given to the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by the in-house enquiry panel in the sexual harassment allegations case.
They were seen holding placards which said "No Means No", "Follow Due Process", "Be Howsoever High You Are Law Is Above You", "Supremacy Of Law Must Be Maintained; Investigate The Matter Afresh etc", "Supreme Injustice" etc.
Soon after the protests started gaining momentum, the Delhi police took the protesters into custody to be taken to Mandir Marg Police Station.
Speaking to Live Law, Madhur Verma, DCP New Delhi, said "The surrounding area near SC is high security area and Section 144 CrPC remains imposed all the time. Every 60 days, we renew the same. It was renewed recently in April. The Parliament, Supreme Court come under Luteyns's Delhi and 144 remains imposed round the clock. Staging any kind of protest is not allowed in such places. Jantar Mantar is the earmarked area for protests and dharna. Today, the protesters were taken to Mandir Marg police station under Section 65 of Delhi Police Act and later they were released(sic)".
The earlier report had stated that Delhi Police imposed curfew under Section 144 CrPC after the protests. On contacting the Delhi DCP later, it was known that Section 144 remains imposed in the area all the time, it being a high security area, and that the protesters were detained for violating the prohibitory orders. The report is accordingly modified. The error is regretted
RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, who took part in the protests, told Live Law that they were against the 'sham process' followed by the in-house panel to conclude that the sexual harassment allegations raised by the former Court staff against the CJI were without substance. They demanded that the copy of enquiry report should at least be handed over to the complainant, if not made public.
The protesters were released from custody by 3 PM.
Widespread criticism is mounting from several persons within the legal fraternity against the process followed by the in-house panel of Justices Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee while rejecting the former Junior Court Assitant's allegations. They point out that the woman had walked out of the enquiry on the ground that several of her concerns, such as denial of assistance by a lawyer, lack of clarity in procedure, demand for video recording of proceedings etc, were not addressed by it. Despite that, the panel proceeded ex-parte, and found that there was no substance in the allegations against the CJI.
They also highlight that the panel should have included external members as per the Visakha guidelines and POSH Act and should have permitted the complainant to have representation by a lawyer. The opaqueness maintained by the Committee in not handing over the copy of the report to the complaint is also not proper, they point out.
(Pictures & video courtesy :Anjali Bhardwaj)