Quashing the inquiry initiated by the MP High Court into the sexual harassment accusations by a woman Judge against a sitting High Court Judge, a Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra directed the Chief Justice of the High Court to divest the accused Judge of the administrative and supervisory control vested in him, in order to ensure that the investigative process in fair and just.
The Court directed that the Chief Justice of India may reinitiate the investigative process, under the “in-house procedure”, by vesting the authority required to be discharged by the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court, to a Chief Justice of some other High Court, or alternatively, the Chief Justice of India may himself assume the said role.
The Court also observed that by constituting a “two-Judge Committee”, the Chief Justice of the High Court had transverse beyond his jurisdictional authority under the “in house procedure”.
Further, with a view to bring in transparency, the Court directed the Registry of the Supreme Court to place the in-house procedure for enquiry into sexual harassment and other complaints against High Court judges and Chief Justices in the public domain and put it on the Supreme Court website.
The Judge had earlier asserted that she would not co-operate with the panel set up to investigate the charges. The woman Judge asserts in her letter to the panel that “until the committee is reconstituted and her queries answered, she won’t appear before the panel on Tuesday.”
She contended that until the MP High Court Judge continues to assume his post, the witnesses would not be able to depose in a free and fair manner. She further alleges that one of the two members in the panel had once transferred her and that might lead to prejudice in the investigation. Read the LiveLaw story here.
The petitioner had been appointed as the District Judge (entry level) by the Madhya Pradesh State Legal and Legislative Works Department, through an order dated 8.7.2011. She was also appointed as the President of the Vishaka Committee by the District and Sessions Judge, Gwalior.
Her petition alleges that the wife of the Chief Judicial Magistrate had informed her that the accused Judge “was eager that the petitioner should perform a dance on an “item-song”, on the occasion of ladies sangeet (on 10.12.2013) during the festivities of the 25th marriage anniversary of respondent no.3.”
She further claimed that the accused Judge had himself expressed such a desire to her as well. She alleged sexually colored remarks from him during the next few days.
However, when she did not pay heed to any of his advances, her work was subjected to intense surveillance and harassment, in his capacity as the Administrative Judge of the Sessions Division, Gwalior from April 2014 onwards. She pointed out that the surveillance/ harassment was effectuated through the District Judge, the District Judge (Inspection), and the District Registrar.
In order to further demonstrate victimization, it was pointed out that the petitioner was suddenly and unceremoniously transferred on 8.7.2014 in the mid-academic session of her daughters to a remote place Sidhi by overruling the transfer policy of MP HC.
When she approached the accused Judge, she alleged that he “mockingly reacted to the petitioner’s request by telling her that she had not fulfilled his desires, she had not visited his residence alone to meet him even once, and therefore, this order of transfer was before her.”
Read more news about the case here.
Read the judgment here.