A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice R. Gogoi and Justice M.Y. Eqbal reversed a Madras High Court judgment and upheld the punishment of compulsory retirement for a Judicial officer accused of sexual abuse at workplace.
The appeal was filed against the 2007 judgment of the Madras High Court, which had reversed the compulsory retirement imposed on the respondent, Thiru K. Muthukumarasamy and exonerated him of all the charges.
Muthukumarasamy was a Deputy Registrar Tribunal under Criminal Law Amendment Act, Chennai. He had allegedly behaved in an improper manner with G. Pushkala, while she was working as P.A. on deputation in the said Tribunal by issuing two slips to her. The content of the slips amounted to a demand or request for sexual favors and sexual harassment at the place of work.
The petitioner demanded for him to be punished under Tamil Nadu Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules.
He had also allegedly caller her house in the midnights and caused mental torture and agony to her, even after her transfer from the said Tribunal.
The respondent had denied all allegations. Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him. The Enquiry Officer had pronounced him guilty.
Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, acting as the Disciplinary Authority, had then found it suitable to impose compulsory retirement.
The Writ Petition subsequently filed in the Madras High Court sought certain declarations, particularly, with regard to the constitution of a Committee to go into the cases of sexual harassment in the Registry of the High Court. The Court reversed the penalty finding that the Enquiry Officer and the Disciplinary Authority leading to the impugned order of punishment were highly improbable and unacceptable.
He had claimed that the slips were actually part of his preparation/collection of materials for a dissertation which the delinquent was preparing in connection with his Master of Laws examination.
He had additionally submitted that the complainant had borrowed a sum of Rs.10, 000/- from his wife and it is to avoid the said loan that the false story of sexual harassment on the basis of the slips of paper. It was for the same reason that he had made the alleged phone calls.
The High Court accepted the contentions put forward by the respondent.
Setting aside the High Court’s order, the apex Court observed, “It also appears to us from the order of the High Court that additional materials not produced before the Enquiry Officer were also considered by the learned Judges in coming to the impugned conclusions. It is, therefore, clear that the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction in coming to the impugned findings with regard to the culpability of the delinquent and in reversing the order of Compulsory Retirement.”
However, during the pendency of the appeal, the respondent had completed his period of service. The Bench hence added, “What should be the consequences that should now visit the delinquent including his pensionary entitlements is a matter that we leave to the discretion of the Disciplinary Authority which power will naturally be exercised in accordance with known principles of law in this regard.”
Sexual harassment within the judiciary is a growing cause of concern. Recently, a Gwalior Additional District Judge had allegedly resigned after advances from a High Court Judge. Read the Live Law story here.
Read the judgment here.