Media ‘warned’ in CJI case, sexual victimisation of journos, death warrant
The 23 April edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
The media has been asked by the Supreme Court to “exercise restraint” and “act responsibly” following allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi by a former staff member. Finance Minister Arjun Jaitley, meanwhile, described the digital media outlets that first published the allegations as “institutional disruptors”, and also invoked the “power of contempt” in a social media post.
Such ‘warnings’ notwithstanding, the story has made headlines and dominated op-eds since last weekend, given the unprecedented nature of the case, the questionable steps taken to address it by the court, and the resulting polarisation in the legal community.
“The day a rape is reported, it is published everywhere. A day later, the media moves on,” says Nannapaneni Rajakumari, chairperson of the Andhra Pradesh Women’s Commission and Telegu Desam Party leader, in an interview on with NewsTracker’s Manisha Koppala.
Across India: news since last Tuesday
On 19 April, a former junior assistant in the Supreme Court (SC) sent a sworn affidavit to 22 judges, alleging she was sexually harassed and then “victimised” by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The allegations, which were first reported in detail by The Caravan, The Wire and The Leaflet, and Scroll, were described as “scurrilous” and as an “attempt to malign the institution” in a missive from the SC’s secretary general.
On 20 April, a Supreme Court bench convened to hear the allegations, and controversially included Gogoi. Many members of the legal community, including the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association, have said that by hearing his own case the CJI “violated procedure”, as well as the “principles of natural justice”. Another problematic response has been a call from some quarters to “protect judges” by assigning them “all-male staff ”, reported the Times of India.
Among those framing the case as “an assault on the institution”, aided by the media, is Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Writing in Scroll, Kalpana Sharma asks, “Is Arun Jaitley right to claim there are no ‘red lines’ for news sites”? She points out that Jaitley’s complaints about the media are a “backhanded compliment” of sorts.
In the podcast “The curious case of how to investigate a CJI”, the Quint ponders over “where the guardian of law falls in the legal framework to address sexual harassment at work”.
In HuffPost India, Rupali Samuel argues, “CJI Gogoi can‘t hide behind SC to answer sexual harassment accusations”, while an editorial in The Indian Express asserts, ‘How the Supreme Court responds to the sexual harassment complaint will test its institutional integrity’. In the Quint, Gyanant Singh warns against the danger of the allegations “being given an unceremonious burial”, and in Firstpost, law professor Raghav Pandey says, “Irrespective of outcome, sexual harassment charge against CJI Ranjan Gogoi should set strong precedent in such cases”.
According to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, India has dropped two places to rank 140th among 180 countries. The report noted that social media “hate campaigns” against journalists were particularly virulent when the targets are women”. The report also said that the #MeToo movement in India “lifted the veil on many cases of harassment and sexual assault to which women reporters have been subjected”.
In Mohali, Punjab, a 22-year-old woman who had been raped by a cab driver was turned away from a police station because of jurisdiction issues. A case was registered only after the intervention of “senior officer”. The station house officer has now been suspended for dereliction of duty.
At a village in Andhra Pradesh, a man hanged himself from a tree after villagers caught him “molesting” a transgender person. The villagers then allegedly cremated the body immediately and uprooted the tree in order to “completely obliterate all traces of the episode” and “hush up” the matter, reported the Hindu.
In Pune, two convicts have been issued “death warrants” for June 24 for the 2007 rape and murder of a BPO employee. Their clemency petitions were rejected by the President in 2017. One of the men worked as a cab driver for the call centre where the victim was employed. She was assaulted on her last day at the job.
The Supreme Court has ruled that “severe mental illness” is grounds to be spared the death sentence. The court made its ruling while commuting the death sentence of a man who had been convicted for the rape and murder of two minors in 1999.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
Use our case filter to read reports on specific cases: #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, #RapeOfMinors, #Muzaffarapur, #PoliticsOfRape (use the dropdown menu in column A).
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