Friday, November 29, 2013

Ganguly named as ex-SC judge accused of molesting intern

Retired Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly on Friday faced the ignominious prospect of being made to stand in the dock after a three-judge panel investigating a young law graduate's allegation of having been harassed by a "recently retired judge" recorded that she has stood by her charge and named him as her tormentor. 

Justice Ganguly, who retired in February last year on a high after being part of the bench which monitored CBI investigations into the 2G spectrum scam, denied every charge made by the graduate from National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) and claimed that he was a "victim of circumstances". 

The three-judge inquiry panel of Justices R M Lodha, H L Dattu and Ranjana Prakash Desai did a fast-track inquiry and submitted its report to Chief Justice P Sathasivam on Thursday, completing its work within 15 days of its first sitting on November 13, a day after TOI first reported the law graduate's charge. 

The ball is now squarely in the CJI's court as he, who had set up the panel, would be expected to decide the next course of action based on the findings in the report, which contain the girl's deposition, her three affidavits standing by her earlier statements and Justice Ganguly's denial. 

Interestingly, a writ petition filed by attorney general G E Vahanvati seeking expeditious inquiry into the "serious allegations" leveled by the NUJS graduate is still pending before a bench headed by Justice Sathasivam. 

The CJI two days back had assured, ironically in his speech during Law Day which is celebrated to mark adoption of the Constitution by the Constituent Assembly, that "justice will be done in all respects" in the law intern's case. 

One of the options before the Justice Sathasivam-headed bench is to make the three-judge panel inquiry report public during the hearing on Vahanvati's writ petition. If he does so, then the law graduate and Justice Ganguly might be required to appear before the bench and defend their stands either personally or through their counsel. 

This is the first instance in the 63-year history of the Supreme Court that a retired judge was inquired by a CJI-appointed panel for sexual harassment charges. 

What saved the day for the judiciary at one of its most embarrassing moments was the CJI's alacrity in setting up an inquiry committee, expeditious fact finding by it, assuring the law graduate of complete confidentiality of proceedings, and the head of the judiciary's resolve to take the report to its logical conclusion. 

The official statement released by the Supreme Court read, "The committee constituted to inquire into allegations of sexual harassment leveled by a law intern against a former Supreme Court judge held its meetings on November 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 26 and 27. The statement of the law intern was recorded. She has also submitted three affidavits. Statement of Justice (retired) A K Ganguly was recorded. That committee has submitted its report to the Chief Justice of India on November 28, 2013." 

The NUJS graduate had on November 6 first posted in her blog that a "recently retired judge", who was "old enough to be her grandfather", harassed her in a hotel room at a time when Delhi had erupted against the brutal gang-rape of Nirbhaya in December last year. 

After her blog post in the 'Journal of Indian Law and Society', she reiterated and further detailed her charges against the 'retired judge" on November 11 in an interview to the website 'Legally India'. She explained that she had "cowardly" decided not to wage legal battle against her alleged tormentor but decided to speak out "as I felt I had a responsibility to ensure that other young girls were not put in a similar situation". 

In her interview to 'Legally India', she said, "I have heard of three other cases (of sexual harassment) by the same judge and I know of at least four other girls who've faced harassment from other judges -- not perhaps as (bad as mine): most of them were in the chambers of the judge and other people around, so it never gets too bad. A girl I know faced continuous sexual harassment throughout and sexual advances, and actually faced troubles through her work because of it."

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