Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Ranjan Gogoi

A woman has accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment. She was an employee at his office. The complaint is in the form of affidavit with a covering letter. It was sent to 22 judges of the Supreme Court. The reports appeared on Caravan, Leaflet, Scroll and The Wire on 20/4/2019. It was Saturday. CJI Ranjan Gogoi convened a sitting of the Supreme Court. He headed the bench that consisted Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna. Attorney General K. K. Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were present.
Ranjan Gogoi denied the allegations. He said “There has to be a bigger, bigger force behind this… They want to deactivate the office of the CJI.” He further said he had taken the extraordinary and unusual step of convening the sitting because things have gone too far. He hinted the charges were made because he was hearing sensitive cases next week.
Tushar Mehta said the charges were rubbish. Arun Mishra said the judiciary would not be able to function if such unscrupulous allegations were levelled against judges.
On 12/1/2018 Ranjan Gogoi and three other Supreme Court judges had held a press conference against then CJI Dipak Misra. That time he did not think highly of the office of CJI. He should name the persons behind the accuser.
The sitting could have been held on Monday. Ranjan Gogoi could have recused himself and another judge could have taken his place. The accused being a judge in a case involving himself is strange.
Supreme Court has Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee. It is headed by Justice Indu Malhotra. It has 11 members. GSICC has power to pass orders on any complaint of sexual harassment in the Supreme Court precincts. However GSICC requires permission of the CJI to implement certain directions. CJI has the authority to modify or set aside the orders passed by GSICC.
What happens when CJI is accused? The code dealing with complaints has no provision for that.
Supreme Court lawyer Utsav Bains said he was offered 1.5 crore rupees by an unidentified person to organise a media conference and frame Ranjan Gogoi at Presss Club of India and present and present the accuser. He refused and went to inform Ranjan Gogoi of the conspiracy around 7 p.m. on 19/4/2019. The staff said he was not at his residence.
It is wrong to say accusation against CJI is an attack on independence of judiciary. The law is above CJI. If CJI can get away that way, other judges also can do the same. Contempt of court provision has been used against true reports about judges. Ministers can claim attack on them is attack on India. Let law take its course.

Entry to Mosque and Temple

On 16/4/2019 Supreme Court took up a petition filed by Zuber Peerzade and Yasmeen Peerzade, a couple from Poona, seeking direction to Muslim authorities to allow women to enter mosques to offer prayers. The bench consisted of Justices S. A. Bobde and S. Abdul Nazeer. Ashutosh Dubey was the lawyer of petitioners. The petition quoted Supreme Court order in Sabarimala case which said ”religion can not be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and it is also against human dignity…”
Justice Bobde argued with Ashutosh Dubey about applicability of Article 14 to mosques. Article 14 states “Equality before law – The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” Justice Bobde asked “Is a mosque a State?” Ashutosh Dubey replied the mosque receives grants from the State and as such can not deny entry to women.
The Justices were not happy with the petition. They said they were hearing the plea only “because of the judgment in Sabarimala.” Supreme Court issued notices to Central Government, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and National Commission for Women.
Sabarimala Temple had ban on entry of women in 10-50 age group. Temple authorities had argued that there is no discrimination, only differentiation, as there is another Temple where only women can enter and men are banned. Supreme Court rejected that argument and allowed entry of women in 10-50 age group.
Supreme Court Justices who delivered 4-1 majority judgment in Sabarimala case should have known they were opening a Pandora’s Box and opening doors for litigations challenging all types of religious customs, rules and traditions. Sabarimala case set a precedent. Women who had challenged the ban were not devotees of the deity of Sabarimala. Women devotees of the deity favoured ban.
What will be the response of Central Government, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and National Commission for Women? It is election time. Central Government headed by Narenda Modi will calculate repercussions of any response. All India Muslim Personal Law Board is likely to oppose entry of women in mosques. National Commission for Women is expected to side with women.
A Muslim man can legally be married to four women at a time. Some Hindu men have become Muslims to marry second time without divorce. Muslim Personal Law will face challenges as discriminatory. In one case Chander Mohan Bishnoi who was Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana pursued Anuradha Bali who was Assistant Advocate General. He became Chand Mohammed. Anuradha Bali became Fiza. They married as per Muslim rite. On 29/1/2009 Chander Mohan alias Chand Mohammed left Anuradha Bali alias Fiza saying he loved his first wife and children. He returned to Hinduism on 28/7/2009. Anuradha was found dead on 6/8/2012. She was cremated on 7/8/2012.
The case regarding entry of women in mosques is likely to go to a five-judge bench.

20 Democrats for 2020

In India it is time for Lok Sabha elections. In USA, Presidential Election is in November 2020. It is April 2019. Democratic Party has 20 candidates who vie for party nomination to fight Presidential Election.
1) Amy Klobuchar
2) Andrew Yang
3) Bernie Sanders
4) Beto O’Rourke
5) Cory Booker
6) Elizabeth Warren
7) Eric Swalwell
8) Jay Inslee
9) John Delaney
10) John Hickenlooper
11) Joseph Biden
12) Julian Castro
13) Kamala Harris
14) Kirsten Gillibrand
15) Marianne Williamson
16) Tulsi Gabbard
17) Mike Gravel
18) Pete Buttigieg
19) Tim Ryan
20) Wayne Messam
There will be debates in coming months. Some channels may give chance to all candidates to take part in debate by splitting in two parts. Last time when there were 17 Republican candidates, one channel hosted seven candidates first and ten candidates later. The number of candidates went down in subsequent debates.
Bernie Sanders and Joseph Biden lead in polls. Some weeks back suddenly one Democrat woman accused Biden of inappropriate behaviour six years back. After that two women accused Biden similarly. It seems the accusations will not make much difference to Biden.
The contrast with India is striking. Here most parties are personal or family properties. In USA any party member can strive to lead the party. President and Governors are elected and they choose their cabinets. In India, MLAs have no say in election of Chief Minister. Party high command decides.
It is difficult to predict who will win Democratic nomination. More candidates may join the contest.

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