Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Sexual harassment charge against MP district judge: SC sends notice to MP HC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court today issued notices to the Madhya Pradesh High Court in plea by a senior Madhya Pradesh District Judge for quashing of a 2018 sexual harassment charge levelled against him by a woman judicial officer. The court has also stayed the disciplinary proceedings against the district judge.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde issued the direction while hearing a plea challenging the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, whereby no relief was given to the district judge regarding the disciplinary enquiry proceedings against him.

Senior Advocate R Balasubramanium, appearing for the petitioner judge, stated that his client had an unblemished service of 32 years without any accusation against him. When he was about to be considered for elevation to the High Court, suddenly this complaint came up and inquiry was started.

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According to him, what happened with the district judge was unfortunate, because while he is set to retire this year he has been made to face such embarrassment.

CJI Bobde also opined that it has become a trend to level accusations when a judge is about to be promoted or elevated.

“It is a regular phenomenon in our system that on the verge of something happening, all kinds of things start happening. Complaints are filed, news items appear and suddenly people remember what a bad man he is,” the CJI said.

Back in 2018, a sexual harassment complaint was filed against the petitioner district judge by another woman judge, following which the disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him.

The accused district judge had in June this year also approached the Supreme Court challenging the report of the Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) that favoured further disciplinary actions against him, but the court had asked the district judge to approach the High Court.

The petitioner contended that the High Court through the judgement dismissed the petition at the admission stage without appreciating the legal and factual issues in correct perspective despite the fact that the GSICC itself found no evidence to proceed against the petitioner. 

The petitioner had to then approach the apex court to seek relief after the HC dismissed its plea.

The petitioner, in the present plea, has challenged the respondent’s action to initiate new disciplinary enquiry proceedings against the petitioner. Despite the finding of ‘no evidence’ and ‘no material to proceed in the matter’, ‘to proceed in the matter’, in its reports, the GSICC in an volta face action recommended disciplinary action against him and the complainant, which is outside the scope of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.

The plea has contended that the petitioner will be superannuating by the end of this year 2020 and the complaint has been pending since more than two years. The long, unblemished judicial career of the petitioner in on the verge of being ruined, said the plea.

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The plea has raised fundamental questions regarding guarantee of service tenure, guarantee of personal liberty and reputation in service, right to lead a dignified life with status and guarantee against unwanted, unreasonable and arbitrary action of holding repeated investigation by four different enquiries, on the same issue, against a senior member of Higher Judicial Service, in complete violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

-India Legal Bureau    

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