Friday, August 29, 2014

Supreme Court stays MP high court probe into sexual-harassment case

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Madhya Pradesh high court judge accused of sexually harassing a Gwalior additional district and sessions judge, who leveled the allegations shortly after she quit judicial service, and stayed the inquiry proceedings instituted by the HC chief justice.

The interim order was passed by a bench of justices JS Khehar and Arun Misra on a petition by the former additional district and sessions judge, who had questioned the legality of the inquiry committee set up by the HC chief justice and requested that an appropriate three-judge committee be set up by the Chief Justice of India in accordance with the "in-house procedure" after receipt of a report from the HC chief justice.

Appearing for the ADJ, senior advocate Indira Jaising and counsel ML Lahoty pointed out that as per the "in-house procedure" adopted by the higher judiciary in 1999, the MP HC chief justice had no jurisdiction to pass an order on August 8 setting up a two-judge committee to inquire into the charges and give a report.

The ADJ reiterated on affidavit before the Supreme Court the sexual harassment charges she had made in her complaint against the HC judge. She said the in-house procedure adopted by a full court of the Supreme Court on December 16, 1999 had provided that on receipt of a complaint, the HC chief justice concerned was to "verify" it confidentially after asking for an explanation from the judge concerned.

"If the complaint is found to be not frivolous, the chief justice of the high court is required to forward his comments to the Chief Justice of India, who will then constitute a committee for a deeper probe," the ADJ said and alleged that the MP chief justice had no jurisdiction to set up a two-judge inquiry committee.

The apex court sought responses from the HC judge, the registrar general of the HC and the Supreme Court's secretary general within four weeks before staying the August 8 order of the HC chief justice setting up the committee.

The ADJ said her resignation triggered by sexual harassment was "constructive termination" and sought a direction from the apex court to the HC to reinstate her as additional district and sessions judge from the date of her resignation with all consequential benefits.

Naming the judge in question in her petition before the Supreme Court, she said, "The judge (name withheld) nevertheless found an opportunity to come close to the petitioner and whispered to her that 'main aapki sexy aur khubsoorat figure ko dekhne se reh gaya. Kash aapko nachte huey dekh pata."

The HC judge had reacted strongly to her complaint and offered to face any inquiry, even by CBI, and face death penalty if found guilty. He had termed the charges baseless and leveled to destroy his "carefully crafted reputation".

The ADJ also reiterated her charge that the judge had through others kept pestering her to reach his bungalow alone. The judge had denied this charge too.

Referring to another incident, the ADJ accused the judge of telling her, "Aapka kaam toh bahut achha hai, par aap apne kaam se bahut khubsoorat hain. Aapko dekh kar apni ankhe jhapkaane ka mann nahi karta." She alleged that this comment was made in front of her 16-year-old daughter as the judge put his hand on her back at a party.

"This statement of the judge and his actions caused discomfort not only to the petitioner but also to her 16-year-old daughter," she said and claimed that they immediately left the party.

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