Allegation by law graduate of sexual harassment against former SC judge to be probed by panel formed by CJI

Allegation by law graduate of sexual harassment against former SC judge to be probed by panel formed by CJI

Following the allegations leveled against a former Supreme Court judge by a young lawyer who posted in a blog that she was sexually harassed last December by a Supreme Court judge while she was interning with and who "retired recently", a three-judge committee comprising of Justice RM Lodha, HL Dattu and Ranjana P Desai has been formed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam to inquire into the law graduate's sexual harassment charge against the retired judge.

After attorney general GE Vahanvati  invited the attention of the Bench based on a news story reporting the charges by the NUJS law graduate, Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam revealed in open court that the three-judge committee will start inquiry into the alleged incident from this evening. Justice Sathasivam informed that sexual harassment incidents can never be tolerated and assured the Attorney General that the new committee of judges will go to the crux of the charges and submit a report as soon as possible as the issue cannot be taken lightly. He also informed that on the basis of the inquiry committee’s report, appropriate action will be taken. The Chief Justice was of the view that being the head of the judicial institution, the allegation was also a major concern to him and he was curious to find out whether the statement is true or not.

The girl, who graduated from Kolkata-based National University of Juridical Sciences this year, has talked about the sensational charge in a blog she wrote on November 6 for 'Journal of Indian Law and Society' wherein she had said the judge, who was "old enough to be her grandfather", harassed her in a hotel room during the brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya in Delhi. The NUJS graduate also gave her reasons for not getting into a legal process against her alleged harasser considering the high position the judge enjoyed. She also revealed that when she encountered that horrific episode she was too stunned and surprised at the time to even react with anger.

Currently a fellow with 'Natural Justice: Lawyers for Communities and the Environment', the young woman however decided to speak out as she felt that somewhere she was responsible to make sure that other young girls were not put in a similar situation. While narrating her experience she stated that besides her case, she knew of three other cases of sexual harassment by the same judge and claimed to know of at least four other girls who've faced harassment from other judges, which according to her was not as bad as what the NUJS graduate had to go through. She even revealed a girl she knew faced continuous sexual harassment throughout and sexual advances, and actually faced troubles through her work because of it.

Talking about the unfortunate incident, the young lawyer posted in the NUJS blog

: “In Delhi at that time, interning during the winter vacations of my final year in University, I dodged police barricades and fatigue to go to the assistance of a highly reputed, recently retired Supreme Court judge whom I was working under during my penultimate semester. For my supposed diligence, I was rewarded with sexual assault (not physically injurious, but nevertheless violating) from a man old enough to be my grandfather. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that long after I’d left the room, the memory remained, in fact, still remains, with me”.

She even expressed her discontent on the Indian judicial system when it comes to cases relating to sexual assaults and rape and wrote, “Five years of law school had taught me to look to the law for all solutions – even where I knew that the law was hopelessly inadequate – and my reluctance to wage a legal battle against the judge left me feeling cowardly. On reflection though, I cannot help but wonder why I should have felt that way. As mentioned earlier, I bore, and still bear, no real ill-will towards the man, and had no desire to put his life’s work and reputation in question. On the other hand, I felt I had a responsibility to ensure that other young girls were not put in a similar situation. But I have been unable to find a solution that allows that. Despite the heated public debates, despite a vast army of feminist vigilantes, despite new criminal laws and sexual harassment laws, I have not found closure. The lack of such an alternative led to my facing a crippling sense of intellectual and moral helplessness”.