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Anew probe panel will investigate sexual harassment charges against Justice s Gangele of the Gwalior high court

By Ramesh Menon


Allahabad Chief Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud will now head an inquiry panel of three judges to investigate charges against Gwalior High Court Judge Justice S Gangele, who is accused of sexually harassing Sangeeta Madan, an additional district judge in the same court.

The Delhi High Court Chief Justice G Rohini is one of the members on this inquiry panel. The panel already had detailed deliberations on 11th, 12th and 13th April and will again meet later before finalizing its inquiry report that will decide the fate of Justice Gangele.

One of the members strongly felt that the panel should also examine why Madhya Pradesh Chief Justice Ajay Manik Rao Khanwilkar did not give a hearing to Sangeeta Madan even when she had leveled serious charges against a judge. Her letter was self-explanatory and after getting it, action should have been taken, the member felt.

Allahabad high court chief Justice (6)

Allahabad High Court Chief Justice  Dhananjaya Chandrachud 

In the middle of 2014, Sangeeta quit her job saying that she found it too humiliating to continue. In an anguished letter to the then Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha, she detailed out the harassment faced by the judge for a long time. On his 25th wedding anniversary celebrated on December 10, 2013, he organized a ladies sangeet and sent her a request asking her to dance to an item song, she said in her letter.

Sangeeta alleged that while attending the wedding ceremony of a judicial officer on February 22, 2014, Justice Gangele said: “Sangeeta you have an excellent work performance but you are more beautiful than your work. I do not even want to blink my eyes.” He then put his hands on Sangeeta’s back even though she was accompanied by her 16-year-old daughter.
On August 6, 2014, Pravin Parekh, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, wrote to Justice Lodha saying that the association had passed a resolution that the serious matter must be urgently looked into.

Justice Mukul Mudgal told India Legal: “The appointment of Justice Chandrachud is not only an apt choice, but a step in the right direction. It was something that had to be done. It will restore public confidence as it will be clear that the judiciary is not sweeping anything under the carpet.”

Judge Madan had practiced law for 15 years in Delhi courts before she secured the second position in the competitive examination of the Madhya Pradesh higher judicial services at district entry level in 2001.

Her husband, Sanjay Madan, an architect, saw that she had bright career prospects and encouraged her to pursue her dream of working in the judiciary. In her letter, she had spoken of how much the family sacrificed for her as she had to move to Gwalior. She was posted as the VIIIth additional district and sessions judge at Gwalior in October 2012.

It is indeed ironical that she was the chairperson of the District Vishaka Comm-ittee but could not protect herself and had no recourse but to quit her job as judge as the harassment continued. However, with the new panel constituted, there is a ray of hope that justice will finally be done.


 

 “A committee should scrutinize such allegations”

RKPhukanJustice Rumi Kumari Phukan, the sitting judge of the Guwahati High Court spoke to India Legal on the Sangeeta Madan sexual harassment issue. Excerpts:

  • Whether Sangeeta was right in raising the issue: Everyone has the right to maintain one’s dignity. If one has the courage to protest against such harassments, these incidents will never happen again. However, having said that, we should not generalize the issue.

  • Whether such incidents will erode the credibility of thejudiciary in the public eye: Of course, it is certainly not a healthy sign. I feel, the entire community of lawyers should sensitize itself to such matters, so that these sort of embarrassing situations do not recur.

  • Whether the Supreme Court should intervene to strengthen the moral fiber of judges in the judiciary : I feel such matters should be brought up before the high courts and a committee should scrutinize such allegations.
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