“I have been victimised for resisting and refusing the unwanted sexual advances of the CJI” Ranjan Gogoi: Former Supreme Court employee
Atul Dev and Nikita Saxena | The Caravan | April 20 2019
In a sworn affidavit, copies of which were sent to the residences of 22 Supreme Court judges yesterday, a former employee of the Supreme Court of India accused the chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, of sexual harassment and persecution. The former employee describes two incidents of molestation by Gogoi in her affidavit, both of which allegedly took place in October 2018, only days after he was appointed to India’s highest judicial office. After she refused his alleged sexual advances, the former employee writes, she and her family faced “consistent persecution,” including the loss of their jobs and subsequently, arrest and torture in police custody. “I say that the CJI has misused his position, office and authority and abused his clout and power to influence the police,” she writes. “I have been victimised for resisting and refusing the unwanted sexual advances of the CJI and my entire family has also been victimised and harassed due to that.”
Along with her affidavit, the former employee also sent the judges copies of video recordings of several incidents she refers to in the document—in particular, that a Delhi Police official accompanied her to the CJI’s residence in January this year, where she was asked to apologise to his wife. The videos also indicate that Rajnath Singh, the union home minister, and Amulya Patnaik, the commissioner of the Delhi Police, were made aware of the incident at least as early as 11 January 2019.
In the affidavit, the former employee describes how, in the months preceding his ascension to the post of CJI, Gogoi took a special interest in her professional and personal life, eventually transferring her to his residential office on Tees January Marg, where she was asked to work with him at close quarters. She writes that on two separate occasions, on consecutive days, the CJI touched her and embraced her against her will. During one such incident, “I was forced to push him away with my hands,” she states. The former employee further writes that Gogoi instructed her to not speak about the alleged incidents with anyone, and threatened her with dire consequences if she did so.
In the four weeks following the alleged incidents, the former employee was transferred thrice to different sections within the Supreme Court. Towards the end of November, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against her. She was accused of having “acted in a manner prejudicial to discipline” for expressing her anxiety regarding her frequent transfers; trying to “bring influence and exert pressure from unacceptable quarters” for approaching a colleague to ask if a lack in her abilities had resulted in these frequent postings; and showing “insubordination, lack of devotion to duty and indiscipline” by taking a casual leave on a Saturday. She was dismissed from the Supreme Court on 21 December 2018. By the end of that year, her husband and his brother, both of whom worked with the Delhi Police, were also suspended from their respective jobs.
In March this year, Naveen Kumar, a resident of Jhajjar, Haryana, lodged a complaint against the former employee at Tilak Marg police station in Delhi, on the basis of which the police registered a first information report. According to Kumar, the former employee had defrauded him of Rs 50,000, which he claimed she took as part of a bribe, promising him a job at the Supreme Court in exchange. In her affidavit, the former employee termed Kumar’s charges as being “false, malicious and premeditated to harass and terrorise me and my family.” On 8 March, five days after the registration of the FIR, a team of policemen from the Tilak Marg police station arrived at the ancestral home of the former employee’s husband, in Rajasthan, where she was staying at the time, to take her into custody. She writes in her affidavit that when she went to the the police station the next day, as directed, accompanied by her family members, the police subjected them to torturous treatment: the SHO, she writes, handcuffed one of her legs to a sitting bench for a whole night, kicked her and verbally abused her. After that, she was sent to Tihar Jail for a day. The former employee was granted bail on 12 March. The next hearing in her case will be at the Patiala House Court today.
We sent a list of questions to the CJI, which went unanswered. Instead, the secretary general of the Supreme Court responded, stating that the allegations are “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous and are totally denied.” The response relies heavily on the criminal case filed against the former employee in March and mentions an older case filed against her in 2011 by a neighbour. The 2011 case concerned a tussle between the former employee’s father-in-law and a neighbour concerning who should get first preference in some electrical work that both needed to get done in their houses. It was quashed by the Delhi high court in September 2016 following a settlement between the concerned parties.
“My family has been devastated and rendered economically destitute by false and frivolous proceedings and complaints against them,” the former employee writes in the affidavit, which is presently in the possession of nearly two dozen Supreme Court judges. The mounting pressure has “reached unbearable proportions,” she continues. “It now seems like the harassment, victimisation, and torture will not stop unless I speak out about the origin and motive for the harassment … now there is an imminent danger to my life that I am compelled to speak the whole truth, in order to save myself and my family.”
The former employee first joined the Supreme Court in May 2014, at the registry of the court. Her position involved typing and documentation work at the library, along with arranging for the requisite books or judgments for different courtrooms from the library. Soon, she was posted to the court of a judge, where she worked for around eight to ten months in 2015, followed by stints with other judges of the court. The annual confidential reports for the years 2014–15 and 2015–16 state that her performance during this time was “good” and “very good.”
In October 2016, she was deputed to Ranjan Gogoi’s court. By this time, she was simultaneously pursuing a degree in law, hoping to further her career prospects in the field. In the beginning of 2018, she took ten days off for her LLB examinations. Her absence did not go unnoticed. Upon her return, she writes, one of the court masters told her that Gogoi had enquired after her.
She came into direct contact with the judge not long after. She writes in her affidavit that Gogoi complimented her on her work and asked her about her professional aspirations, as well as her familial life. “I was extremely honoured and happy that Justice Gogoi spoke to me in such a positive manner,” she writes. “The kind of work which I will give you, will be helpful for you in your future,” she said he told her. The former employee was enthusiastic at the opportunity. “Because I am always like a good learner, I really want to learn more, to move forward in my life,” she told us, recalling the conversation.
The former employee soon began to receive calls from his staff or the judge himself, requesting her assistance in research, such as procuring judgments or books, which she was sometimes asked to personally deliver to Gogoi’s chamber. According to her affidavit, he began allocating work to her that he said was “very confidential.” She writes that he gave her a private number that he said he used with very few people, for her to call on, and another for WhatsApp. Gogoi instructed her to not answer her phone in front of any family members, since he would need to communicate confidential information with her, she writes. The affidavit states that their interactions increased gradually, and Gogoi began calling her several times a day in relation to work, including during “non-Court hours and even during the late evenings.”
She indicates in the affidavit that Gogoi was an especially attentive superior: he frequently checked in on the progress of her work, the status of her studies, and the well-being of her family, even offering her personal advice. Interacting so closely with a judge of the Supreme Court made her “nervous,” the former employee writes, but “Justice Gogoi would keep saying I should speak … and not worry.”
On one occasion, she states, Gogoi insisted that she and her husband attend a public event where he was scheduled to be present; on another, he invited the couple to his residence. “Jis rank par kaam kar rahi hain, is level se pada upar hai”—She is far more capable than the designation she is working at, the former employee recalled Gogoi telling her husband.
In early August 2018, Gogoi asked her to begin working from his residence office, she writes. She notes in the affidavit that Gogoi spoke to her immediate superior, BA Rao, to arrange the transfer. She said that a senior staff member had told her that she should feel proud because this was the first time in the registry that a person at her level was appointed at such a position. “Which I was feeling actually,” she told us, “I used to feel proud in myself that … I have gotten this opportunity to prove myself.”
The former employee began her stint at Gogoi’s residence office at Tees January Marg on 11 August. Gogoi would work in his office between 8 am and 9 am, or until he left for the court, she states. Although there had initially been an agreement that she would work between 10 am and 5 pm, gradually, she was asked to come in earlier and earlier. Soon after her arrival, she writes, two among the staff members at Gogoi’s office who were on the morning shift began coming after the judge left for court. The staffers were subsequently shifted to the court registry, she writes.
Consequently, the former employee would work by herself in the morning, accompanied by the support staff at the residence office. She notes in the affidavit that during the hours that the judge was at his residence, he would call her to his office at least three or four times, before he left for court.
The former employee states that Gogoi continued personal interactions with her, but insisted that she delete all records of those exchanges from her phone on a daily basis. She states in her affidavit that the judge even checked her phone to ensure that she had followed his diktat. Among other instructions, she writes, Gogoi asked her to send him a message saying “good morning” each day, and to message him when she reached home in the evening. “I found it strange but I felt I did not know enough,” she writes. “I was very junior, I had never interacted with a Judge before this, and I told myself that maybe this was normal.”
Meanwhile, her affidavit indicates, Gogoi became even more effusive in his praise for her. She writes that Gogoi continuously complimented her work and told her he had “three assets”—his wife, his daughter, and her. He repeatedly emphasised her importance to him, she states. According to her affidavit, on 3 October 2018, when Gogoi was sworn in as the 46th chief justice of India, the former employee and her husband were in attendance.
During her conversations with Gogoi, when the judge enquired after her family, the former employee mentioned that one of her husband’s brothers was struggling to find employment because he was disabled. Gogoi offered to use the CJI’s discretionary quota to appoint her brother-in-law to a job in the Supreme Court. On 9 October, the former employee’s brother-in-law was appointed as a court attendant.
The next day, the CJI informed her of the appointment, and told her that he had ensured it went through even though there were traces of blood in her brother-in-law’s urine test, rendering him medically unfit for the post. “I kept expressing to the CJI how grateful me and my family were that Lordship had arranged for a job for my brother-in-law,” the former employee writes.
“On that day since it was the first day of Navratri, I had worn an orange kurta and dupatta,” the former employee writes. “The CJI referring to my clothes, told me, ‘You are looking pretty good today.’” Then, she writes, Gogoi asked her to come stand by his chair, and got up as she did. “What can you do for me,” she states he asked her. She writes that she reiterated her gratitude towards him.
“The CJI then slid his hand from the back of my head, along my back to my hipline, till my lower back,” she continues. “I immediately froze and my body stiffened.” Gogoi, the former employee writes, may have sensed this. She adds that he then pulled her cheeks, like that of a child, and said that “he is like this with his daughter too.” The affidavit states that he then asked her to write down what she wanted to do for him and show it to him.
For the rest of the day, the former employee said she went back and attempted to work normally. “I thought that probably, by mistake, kuch aisa waisa ho gaya hai”—something must have happened just like that, she told us. “[I thought] maybe I am wrong, ki maine us sense mein le liya—that I took it in the wrong sense,” she told us. “How can I blame someone like him, who is very strict about his work.”
The next morning, Gogoi called her to his residence office again, she writes. As was her practice, she stood by the door, with her notepad and pencil. She states that he invited the former employee to sit on the chair across his desk. Gogoi brought up the employment of her brother-in-law again, and then asked her again what she could do for him, she states. This time, she continues, she was prepared. According to her affidavit, she showed him her notepad, on which she had written a short note on how grateful she and her family were for his help and encouragement.
Gogoi read the note. The former employee states in the affidavit that the CJI then got up from his chair, and walked across the room to the former employee’s left. She stood up too, as a habit of protocol. The CJI then took the notepad from her hands and put it on his desk, she writes. He took her hands into his and told her that her hands smelt nice. Gogoi “pinched my cheeks,” she notes. “He then put his arms around my waist from the front, he said, ‘I want this from you.’”
“He hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and did not let go,” she writes. “He told me, ‘hold me’, he did not let go despite the fact that I froze and tried to get out of his embrace by stiffening and moving my body away.” When Gogoi “did not stop forcibly hugging me,” the former employee writes, “I was forced to push him away from me with my hands.” Her affidavit states that when she pushed him away, he hit his head against a cabinet to her left. “My first thought was why would the CJI think he can do something like this to me.”
The former employee said she then left the room, in a state of shock. All she could think, she told us, was that he was a 64-year-old man, and she was several decades younger. “But when it happens … after that I realised ki kuch bhi ho sakta hai yahaan par”—Anything can happen here, she said.
A little while later, Gogoi called her to his office, she notes in the affidavit. “Yahan jo hua hai”—whatever happened here—“you will not share with anybody,” she states the CJI told her. “He told me that if I disclosed anything to anybody, my family would be greatly disturbed.” She was “upset and scared,” and agreed to his demand. Gogoi then dictated a note that she was to write, the affidavit states. “I wrote down what he dictated which was something like, ‘I will not harm your dignity. Can you hold me.’”
“I knew what he was dictating was wrong, and that he was making it appear that it was me who had tried to hold him,” she writes. “However, I was so scared and shocked that I wrote whatever he dictated.” She adds that she began feeling a surge of panic, and felt dizzy. When she went back to her office-space, she put her head down, and left for home once the day was done.
She writes that when she reached home that evening, she received phone calls from a colleague in the administrative department of the Supreme Court—who had never called her before—and from another senior official of the court. Both callers enquired whether she had reached home and if everything between her husband and her was all right. She told her colleagues that everything was fine.
Her affidavit states that she later learnt that Satya Prakash Gupta, the station house officer for the Tilak Nagar police station, had called several of her neighbours, including the president of her colony, and made similar enquiries.
Later that night, the former employee writes, she gathered her thoughts and decided to tell the CJI that she would no longer work for him. She states that when she called him, he did not answer. Then, she writes, Gogoi’s personal secretary called her back and told her that she could not call the CJI at night. “Though till then it was normal for him to whatsapp and call me at odd times,” she notes.
On 12 October, when she went to the CJI’s residence office, she states, she found Gogoi’s behaviour to be drastically altered. She no longer worked the morning shift alone. When Gogoi called her to his chamber, he would insist that one of the support staff members of the office accompany her, and asked for the door to his office to be left open, the affidavit states. On one occasion, the former employee writes, Gogoi told her to continue to send him messages wishing him a good morning, and to work as she had done earlier.
“At work I was extremely scared and nervous … I knew I could not speak about what happened to anybody,” she writes. “When he had called me [to his house] with my husband, I had touched his feet basically … that moment actually came in my mind, I was just thinking that that was the time, when I used to tell him, ‘Lordship, I need your blessings only, I want nothing else, because we all are settled.’ So I was just recalling everything, where did I go wrong, where was I lacking,” the former employee told us.
She was unable to confide in anyone, including her husband, even though he noticed her change in demeanour. “Those three days that passed, my husband has seen me, that I was just lying down on bed only, I was just dumb, going to office, or coming back, I had no sense of anything,” she told us.
“During this time, my work was suffering.” the former employee writes. Then, she states, “my work life changed dramatically overnight … my victimisation and harassment began that led to my final dismissal.”
On 22 October, when the court resumed after Dussehra vacations, she was transferred out of the CJI’s residence office and his court, and posted at the Centre for Research and Planning in the Supreme Court. She writes that she was relieved by this change because she did not want to continue working in his residence office. Towards the end of the month, Gogoi visited the CRP with two other judges and praised her in their presence, she notes in the affidavit.
The former employee writes that a few days after the visit, Gogoi summoned her to his chamber and asked her if she would prefer to resume working in his court. “I was not able to look him in the eye, but firmly told him that I want to continue in the CRP in the Supreme Court,” she writes.
Over the following days, the former employee was transferred from one office in the court to another. On 16 November, the former employee’s seat was shifted to the Admin Material section. She writes that she applied for a casual leave for 17 November—a Saturday, which is a half-day at the court—to attend a function at her child’s school. Her supervisor asked her to come in for a few hours. Since the function did not end until 12.15 pm, she could not make it to office in time. “I however kept updating my supervisor regarding the delay at my child’s school and inability to attend work on that day,” her affidavit states.
On 19 November, the former employee states that she was issued a memorandum by the registrar of the Supreme Court, Deepak Jain. It stated that she had rendered herself liable for action under the provisions of the Conduct Rules for questioning the decisions of senior officers regarding the change of her posting, and for taking unauthorised leave. She was asked for an explanation on why the court would not be justified in initiating disciplinary proceedings against her.
She submitted her response on 22 November, and stated that she had not approached anyone to seek a change of seat, or questioned the decisions of her senior officers. She mentioned her request for casual leave on 17 November, and her child’s school function. That day, she was transferred to the library division.
On 26 November, she received another memo, which stated that her explanation had been deemed unsatisfactory. A day later, she received a suspension order in lieu of the disciplinary proceedings that were being contemplated against her. She was charged with being reluctant to shift to the sitting arrangement for her upon her transfer to Admin Materials and questioning the decision of senior officers; trying to bring influence and exert pressure from unacceptable quarters to have her seat changed; and absenting herself from duty on 17 November without authorisation.
On 10 December, the former employee received a notice informing her that a departmental inquiry was being conducted into the charges of misconduct levied against her. Surya Pratap Singh, a registrar, was appointed the inquiry officer. She wrote to Pratap Singh and asked him for permission to appoint Laxman Singh Negi, a senior section assistant in the Rajya Sabha, as her defence assistant.
The former employee was asked to appear for her defense statement at 10.30 am on 17 December. A copy of the pass she acquired to enter the Supreme Court, which is annexed to her affidavit, lists her as having entered the premises at 10.19 am. By 10.25 am, according to her affidavit, she was sitting outside the room of the enquiry officer, whom she sent word to through the peon at his office. At that point, she suffered a panic attack. “I was thinking that my hard work was ending like that, in such a manner. I was thinking that I shouldn’t have gone basically. I should have also enjoyed my life like other people. Why was I working? Why was I ignoring my family? For what kind of work?” she told us. She states that she began crying as she was waiting outside the enquiry office. Not long after, she fainted.
She was taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital from the Supreme Court. The report from the hospital notes that she experienced a “sudden onset of hyperventilation” and “loss of consciousness.” The report states, “Patient was found lying on the floor and not responding to any command with her eyes opened and staring on the ceiling … Patient was brought in this condition to RML emergency.”
The next day, Jain sent the former employee a communication to convey that the charges against her were found to be proven. The enquiry report stated that the Pratap Singh had decided to proceed with the enquiry without hearing her defense, because she “neither appeared before the inquiry officer on 17-12-2018 nor she moved any request for adjournment.”
“That was done in a slightly hush-hush manner,” Negi, the senior assistant in Rajya Sabha who was supposed to represent the former employee in her disciplinary-committee hearing, told a reporter about the proceedings. He added that the former employee said that the enquiry committee stated that it would only consider those from within the registry as eligible to represent her as a defence assistant, not from any other government organisation. According to Negi, the rules for such disciplinary proceedings usually state that any government servant could be a defence assistant for an officer who was charged in such cases. We sent a mail to Pratap Singh, the enquiry officer, but he did not respond. Our calls to him went unanswered. We were unable to reach Jain for a comment.
On 20 December, the former employee’s husband submitted a hand-written note to Jain, along with her defence statement. The note called Jain’s attention to the fact that the former employee had fallen sick, fainted in the court and been taken to a hospital.
A day later, the former employee was dismissed from service at the Supreme Court.
In her affidavit, the former employee notes that her family’s ordeal continued even after she lost her job. On 28 December, her husband and his brother, who were employed with the Delhi Police, were suspended from their service. No explanation was offered to either in their suspension orders. But whomever they asked, her husband told us, said that the pressure to do so was “coming from the top.”
At this point, the former employee’s husband contacted a senior official in the CJI’s office, and begged him to arrange a meeting with Gogoi. In the two-minute long recording of the conversation, the husband can be heard pleading, “Our lives have been ruined, in every way.” The senior official denied having the slightest idea of what the former employee’s husband was talking about. The official then blocked the former employee’s husband’s number, the latter told us.
On 2 January, a deputy commissioner of police passed an order stating that “due to official misconduct departmental action has been initiated against” the husband, for making “unsolicited calls to the office of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India.” On 9 January, another order from the office of the deputy commissioner explained the suspension of the former employee’s husband and her brother-in-law. The order stated that they had links with local gamblers and had approached the SHO of Tilak Nagar to allow satta activities—gambling—of a criminal. A 2012 case that had been registered against the two brothers was also mentioned as the basis of their suspension. In her affidavit, the former employee claims that the matter had already been compounded.
The next day, on 10 January, the former employee writes in her affidavit, her husband received a call from Naresh Solanki, then SHO of Tilak Marg police station. The husband then went to meet the SHO, and recorded their conversation on his phone, as a video. Solanki can be heard advising the husband that the former employee should offer to apologise to Gogoi. The husband sounds more than ready do so. “Haath jod ke maafi maang legi,” he told Solanki—she will fold her hands and beg for forgiveness.
On 11 January, the former employee and her husband met Solanki at the police station. The former employee writes in her affidavit that Solanki called Jain, the registrar at the Supreme Court, to ask how they should reach Gogoi’s residence. Then, he changed into plainclothes and drove them to the CJI’s residence in a private vehicle. “There Mr. Deepak Jain … was already present,” the former employee writes. He “took me to Mrs. Gogoi in the CJI’s residence,” she continues. “Mrs. Gogoi told me ‘naak ragad ke jao’. I do not know why Mrs. Gogoi was involved in this. But … by this time the only thing I wanted was to save myself and my family. I fell at the feet of Mrs. Gogoi and rubbed my nose at Mrs. Gogoi’s feet, and said ‘sorry.’ And then we left.” The CJI was not present at the time, the former employee writes.
After coming back to the police station, Solanki had a long conversation with the former employee and her husband, which too, they recorded. In the video, Solanki can be heard assuring them that things would get better from that point on, that they should think about the entire episode as an “accident.” Eventually, Solanki said, if they were patient, they would both get their jobs back.
Offering advice, Solanki can be seen cautioning the former employee about approaching anyone about the issue. “The SHO told us that now that we had done the apology things would improve for us and that in a day or two he would try to meet Mr. Deepak Jain again regarding my case,” the former employee writes in her affidavit. “He also told us that we need not get into why I was made to apologise to Mrs. Gogoi and told us not to share anything with any employee association, etc.” Solanki’s statements, as the former employee relays them, can be heard on the video. Towards the end of their chat, he spelled out for the couple what they were dealing with: “Here is a situation in which we have the CJI—the sitting CJI. You can go around saying whatever you want, no one will listen to you.”
During the conversation with Solanki, the husband said that the former employee’s family had sought the help of Sanjay Joshi, the former general secretary of the BJP who is close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership. The husband further stated that Joshi had called the union home minister Rajnath Singh in front of him, and informed the minister of the circumstances the family had found itself in. We contacted the home minister and Joshi, but they were unavailable for comment. Solanki refused to comment.
On 14 January, the former employee’s physically disabled brother-in-law, who had been appointed to the Supreme Court by Gogoi under his discretionary quota, was also dismissed. He told reporters that an official “came and asked me to sign that termination letter and when I asked on what basis I was being terminated, I was told that there were orders from above.”
“During the next two months,” the former employee writes in her affidavit, “I was in complete depression and would suffer from panic attacks.” A former colleague told her that rumors were being spread in the Supreme Court and that she had been “suspended and dismissed from service because I had passed on work related information from the residence office of the CJI to my husband and had after that committed suicide.”
These stories, she writes, depressed and tortured her further. “I was not able to understand why we were being so badly victimized even though I had remained silent as directed by the CJI and not disclosed the incidents of sexual harassment to anybody. I stopped taking calls and confined myself to my house. I consulted with psychiatrists and neurologists for lack of sleep and depression.”
Though what happened in the intervening period is unclear, on 3 March, about fifty days after the former employee said she met the CJI’s wife, an FIR was registered against her. Naveen Kumar, a resident of Jhajjar, Haryana registered an FIR against the former employee and her husband in the Tilak Marg police station under sections 420, 506 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code—cheating, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy. Kumar claimed in the FIR that Mansa Ram, another resident of Jhajjar, had brought him to the Supreme Court in June 2017 and introduced him to the former employee. Kumar wrote in the FIR that she had promised to get him the job of a process server in the Supreme Court in exchange for Rs 10 lakh. Kumar claims that despite having taken an advance of Rs 50,000 from him, she never got him the job and instead threatened to get him implicated in a false case with the help of her husband, who worked in the Delhi police. Mansa Ram, the FIR notes, died in January this year.
Strangely, despite Kumar’s voluntary admission of having bribed an officer of the Supreme Court to fix a job for himself, no action was taken against him. Instead, the officers at the Tilak Marg police station sprang into action to take the former employee into custody, without any corroboration of the allegations Kumar had made.
On the morning of 19 April, we met Naveen Kumar at the premises of his current workplace, in Bahadurgarh, Haryana. During the meeting, Kumar refused to divulge any details regarding the case that he had filed against the former employee. He met all requests for more information with either evasive or contradictory statements.
Kumar said that he was not aware of how Ram and the former employee knew each other, and that he had never bothered to find out. When we asked him about the payment of cash that, according to the FIR, he had given the former employee at their very first meeting, he simply said that he “happened to carry Rs 50,000 with him in case it was needed.” He said he did not remember the exact date on which he met the former employee. When we asked him to describe her appearance, he reiterated his request to not talk about the case. This was also his response to repeated queries about whether he had any evidence of his interactions with her, any details regarding the location at which he claimed they had met, and whether he had evaded arrest despite having offered a bribe to a Supreme Court officer because he had turned an approver in the case.
Kumar made frequent references to wanting to drop the FIR. “Bohot tension ho raha hai”—it is too much tension, he said, referring to frequent visits that he claimed members of the police force had made to his residence and office. When we asked him why he had filed for the cancellation of the former employee’s bail by stating that she had threatened him with violence if he wanted to withdraw from the case, he said that he did not want to talk about the matter. Kumar claimed that he would say whatever he wanted to in court.
During our conversation, Rakesh Joon, a man who identified himself as Kumar’s boss, walked in and told us to “look for another story.” He went on to cite Kumar’s anxiety since the complaint, and echoed Kumar in saying the matter would be handled in the court. Later, Joon summoned us to his cabin without Kumar. Joon then expressed doubts about the FIR. Although Kumar was a trusted employee had had known for several years, he said, “Main prima facie agar documents dekhoon, toh sab kuch tedha aur unclear lagta hai”—If I look at only the documents, then everything seems convoluted and unclear.
On 8 March, the former employee writes, “We were out of town at my husband’s village [in] …Rajasthan. At around 10 pm … a team of police officers including Inspector Parminder Singh, SI Dharmender Kumar, one lady constable, a constable and a driver arrived … in a private car.” She writes that the “police team threatened me and my family and asked us to accompany them in the night to Tilak Marg Police Station.” The police officials showed them a handwritten notice under Section 41.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, requiring the former employee’s presence at the police station at 2 pm on 9 March.
“We were unaware of the alleged incident regarding which I was being forced to come to Delhi,” she states in the affidavit, “but due to fear and shock could not protest against the same.” Next day, back in Delhi, the former employee and her husband produced themselves at Tilak Marg police station at around 5.30 pm. The former employee was not feeling well and the SHO allowed her to go to the hospital, on the condition that her husband stay at the police station.
At Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, the former employee’s doctor noted that she had episodes of vomiting and dizziness. After getting done at the hospital, she went home with her sister-in-law and went to sleep. At 2 am on 10 March, her sister-in-law received a call from the former employee’s mother-in-law, who also lives nearby. Both women rushed to the mother-in-law’s house.
Upon arriving, the former employee wrote in her affidavit, she saw Devendra Kumar, the new SHO of Tilak Marg police station, in “casual dress … And also saw my husband … handcuffed.” The former employee’s sister-in-law said that the police jumped on them and shoved them in the jeep. “The SHO did it personally,” the sister-in-law said. “He pushed us, touching on the hips.”
The former employee writes in her affidavit that she, her husband, and her sister-in-law were then taken to the Tilak Mark police station, “through a gate (which remains locked usually) where no CCTV cameras are installed.” The former employee continues, “I was shackled with handcuffs by my feet to the bench where I was made to sit.” The sister-in-law told us,“The cuffs were so tight that the only thing that did not happen was blood oozing out.”
According to the former employee’s sister-in-law and one brother-in-law—the same brother who was suspended along side her husband, and who was also present that night— the SHO kept asking the former employee: “Tu kya karne gai thi judge ke kamre mein?”—Why did you have to go in the judge’s room? “She was crying,” the sister-in-law said about the former employee. “Sometimes I would quieten her, sometimes I would cry myself.”
“The SHO misbehaved with me and threatened of dire consequences,” the former employee states in the affidavit. “In the morning, the police untied me and took me again inside the Tilak Marg Police Station where CCTV cameras are installed.” The former employee’s sister-in-law said the SHO told the former employee in the morning, “Tereko wahan pe kyun bheja hai, tu andar kamre mein kya karne gayi thi judge ke paas mein … Teri hi duty wahan, ghar pe tereko hi kyun bulaya usne?”—Why were you sent there, what did you go to do inside the judge’s room? Why were you stationed there, and why were you only called to his house?
She writes, “The SHO, Tilak Marg misbehaved with me and my sister-in-law, and upon his order I was handcuffed again inside the ladies lock up room. … I was taken several times to the IO room and SHO room for investigation and also subjected to medical tests at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital … and thereafter, I was produced before the Metropolitan Magistrate at around 2 pm on 10.03.2019.”
The police requested a three-day custody of the former employee, but the metropolitan magistrate granted them only one day. “My mobile phone was seized by police and there is likelihood of important evidence being deleted or planted in my phone and tampered with,” the former employee writes.
After spending another day in Tilak Marg police station, the former employee was produced before the metropolitan magistrate, who allowed for a judicial custody of 14 days. She was sent to Tihar Jail. But despite the police opposing her bail application, the magistrate granted her bail on 12 March. Two days later, she filed an application before the magistrate to ensure the preservation of the CCTV footage at Tilak Marg police station for the day on which she was taken into custody.
But due to the “influence of local police, the said application was not listed” until 26 March and her case has been transferred to the crime branch, she writes in the affidavit. On 11 April, the investigating officer moved an application for the cancellation of bail, which will be heard at Patiala House today.
When we visited Devendra, the SHO at the Tilak Marg police station, he began the conversation by demanding to know how we had procured documents pertaining to Kumar’s complaint, and why we were getting involved in the matter. He stonewalled all questions by stating that the matter was sensitive, responding with a different answer each time we asked him about why he characterised it as such: “It is sensitive because it is sensitive, we will speak only in court about why it is so, why should I tell you”; “You should file an RTI to find out why it is sensitive”; and “it’s is sensitive because she”—the former employee—“is a woman, and all cases involving a woman are sensitive.”
Devendra said that an investigation into Naveen’s FIR was ongoing, and did not answer any questions regarding it. “I don’t want to talk about the case, investigation is pending, whatever has to come out will come out in the court … I am not answerable to you, I am answerable to the court,” he said. This was his response on several questions, including whether the former employee had been illegally detained. “So you are saying that you did not arrest her at night,” we asked him. “I am not saying anything, I am saying that whatever I did was fully justified, I will repeat myself again, this case is very sensitive.” Although he claimed that the questions that we were asking, and more, had been answered in court, he was unwilling to direct us to the relevant court documents.
The bail cancellation application, filed by the Tilak Marg police station, states that “the accused was interrogated about the allegations levelled against her, wherein accused disclosed that some persons are also involved in the commission of offense.” When reporters contacted Vijay Kaushik, the defence lawyer, he said that there would be clarity on the police’s claims regarding the former employee’s statements only after they file the charge sheet.
Devendra claimed that the former employee was lying about her alleged detainment. “Those who are accused always make such claims,” he said. He also claimed that nobody from her family had been illegally detained. When we confronted him about a video recording in which it is clear that the former employee’s husband was handcuffed at the police station, he said that that might be because “it would have been required for the case,” and that he could not really remember what had or had not happened at that time. “Whatever I did, I did as per procedure, let the courts decide,” Devendra said. “Just as you cannot remember what you ate last month, I cannot remember what exactly happened during this arrest last month,” he told us. “Maybe because I eat less and arrest more people.”
The former employee and her husband brought their harassment and illegal treatment at the hands of Delhi police to the attention of the Delhi Commission of Women and the National Human Rights Commission. Last month, they also wrote letters about their treatment at Tilak Marg police station to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and others.
The former employee said that she had decided to make her account regarding Gogoi public, “Because this man is not stopping. Things must end somewhere, will they not end ever?” This was all she expected, she said. “I don’t want to get my job back, I don’t want it. I don’t want anything. I am not looking for some sort of compensation for myself, just that this harassment that is happening, it should not happen.” The future of the former employee, and whether or not it will hold the semblance of normalcy she hopes for, now rests in the hands of the 22 Supreme Court judges she has entrusted with her affidavit.
The article has been updated to include proofing changes, and a video recording of the former employee’s conversation with Naresh Solanki, which she writes took place in January 2019. Solanki was then the SHO of the Tilak Marg police station.
The following is the response from the Secretary General of the Supreme Court, in full.
We are in receipt of emails from 4 media houses i.e. Leaflet, The Wire, Caravan and Scroll.in requiring a response in less than 24 hours. On enquiries being made, the response of the Supreme Court is as under :
The allegations regarding 11 october 2018, as well as other allegations as can be discerned from your emails, are completely and absolutely false and scurrilous and are totally denied.
The registry of the supreme court of india had posted this individual, who was employed at a level equal to a lower division clerk, in a routine manner at the residence office of the Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India, where in addition to her, there were several other employees also working as a part of the home office of the CJI, and at any given point of time, there were atleast 5-6 other present as a part of the home office of the CJI.
She worked as part of the home office of the Chief Justice of India only for a short period, and as informed, given the nature of her duties, she had no occssion [sic] to interact directly with the Chief Justice of India.
[The former employee] was dismissed from service as per procedure. Her brother-in-law was terminated as he was only a temporary employee at that stage and his performance and conduct was reported not to be satisfactory.
It is not open to anyone to make unsolicited calls or uninvited approaches to the office of the Chief Justice of india, empecially [sic] an employee who has already been dismissed, and who previously engaged in inappropriate conduct. Since unsolicited calls and messages were recieved [sic] by the office of the CJI, a complaint had been made by the registry of the Supreme Court. Whether departmental enquiry was initiated against any member of her family by the Delhi Police, is something which the Delhi Police authorities might have done as per rules.
The motive behind these false and scurrilous allegations is obviously mischevious [sic]. As referred to in your letter, there is a criminal case pending against her, where very serious allegation have been made, of her having taken a bribe to assure employment in the Supreme Court of India. It has been learnt that there is an application for the cancellation of bail earlier granted to her, which is listed for hearing on 20.04.2019 on acoount [sic] of her having made threats to the complainant of the said case.
It would be extremely relevant to mention that the concerned individal [sic] and her family have criminal antecedents.
There were previously 2 criminal cases which had been instituted against her i.e. (1) FIR No. 484/11, P.S. Hari Nagar u/s 324, 341, 354, 506 , 34 IPC; (2) DD No. 30A dated 05.03.2012 u/s 107/150, IPC, P.S. Hari Nagar, SEM Court, Moti Nagar.
Throughout her employment in the Supreme Court, whether during her posting at home office of the CJI, or even subsequently after she was transferred out of the home office of the Chief Justice of India, or at the time she was terminated, or even thereafter, there were no complaints made by her of the nature now being alleged. It is not only mischievous but a complete afterthoght [sic] of her to make these false allegations at this time.
In fact, on the other hand, in the interregnum, there were complaints made against her by the secretariat of the Chief Justice of India, to the Secretary General on account of her inappropriate behavior [sic], and this resulted in her transfer out of the home office of the CJI. Apart from the misconduct formally recorded in the complaint by the secretariat, there were other counts of misconduct on her part.
It appears that these false allegations are being made asa pressure tactics to somehow come out of the various proceedings which have been initiated in law, against her and her family, for their on wrong doings. Its is also very possible that there are mischevious [sic] forces behind all this, with an intention to malign the institution.
Supreme Court of India
The article is published in The Caravan. You can read the article here.