Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Supreme Court reinstates woman judicial officer, who alleged sexual harassment by Madhya Pradesh High Court judge

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The Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated an Additional District Judge in the Madhya Pradesh judiciary, who had levelled sexual harassment charges against a High Court judge eight years ago and had to resign after she was transferred by a full court Bench of the High Court.

The Apex Court Bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai partly allowed the petition argued by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising by holding that the resignation of the petitioner could not be construed to be voluntary.

Jaising thanked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for not taking an adversarial approach in the matter.

Following an inquiry in 2017, the High Court judge was given a clean chit in the sexual harassment case, but the woman judicial officer’s sudden transfer was held to be unjustified, prompting her to seek her job back through a petition in the top court.

Her petition cited the report submitted by the inquiry panel constituted by the Rajya Sabha into her accusations of sexual harassment against the High Court judge, who has since retired.

The inquiry panel was set up in 2015 after 58 members of the Rajya Sabha gave a notice to move a motion to impeach the accused judge.

The report by the committee, comprising Supreme Court judge Justice R. Banumathi (now retired), the then Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Manjula Chellur and Senior Advocate K.K. Venugopal (now Attorney General), was tabled in the Rajya Sabha in December 2017.

The three-member committee in its report had concluded, “It emerges that the decision of the committee to transfer the complainant from district Gwalior to district Sidhi was based on the recommendation sent by the then District Judge Kamal Singh Thakur, who had his own reasons to believe that the complainant (i) was habitual of making unnecessary complaints regarding her staff and non-allocation of substitute staff; (ii) she did not use to behave cordially with other Judges, especially with the Civil Judges; (iii) she made anonymous complaints against the District Judge and other Judges publicly stating that unlike the previous District Judge, administrative skills of the present District Judge were not adequate, and thus, she should be transferred to some other place.

“The transfer committee committed an irregularity by solely relying on the recommendation of District Judge Kamal Singh Thakur and without making any verification or enquiring on the same and hence, was not justified in transferring the complainant in mid-session.

“Equally unjustifiable was the rejection of her representations. Transfer of the complainant also does not seem to be in the interest of the administration and, in our view, it was punitive,” it added.

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