In an appalling revelation, a lower Court Judge in Erode has reportedly served a memo on a Court staff, demanding an explanation for not washing undergarments at his house, and for snapping at his wife in an arrogant tone.
The memo, dated February 1, 2016 and signed by subordinate Judge D. Selvam of Sathyamangalam Court, states, “Please explain within 7 days why disciplinary action should not be initiated against you for your failure to wash the inner wear which were put for washing in the Sub-Judge’s house, and for throwing them away disgustingly, and when your attitude was questioned by the officer and his wife for retorting in an arrogant tone.”
The memo was replied to by the assistant on February 4. The reply stated, “My humble explanation for the memo dated February 1, 2016, I humbly submit that I will guard against any lapses in the future and undertake to do my duties properly. I request that the disciplinary action against me may please be closed.”
Mr. T. Senthil Kumar, General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Judicial Employees Association claims to have verified the incident and said that the Association has decided to file a petition before the Registrar General of Madras High Court and Justice S Nagamuthu, the head of administrative affairs of judicial employees in the State.
“There is a government order against using staff for personal work. When we sought details through several RTI petitions, the reply we received claimed there was no orderly system in the judiciary. But in reality, many workers all over the State have been asked to attend to the domestic works at the judges' residence,” alleged association President P. Karunakaran.
Indian Express contacted the staff member, Vasanthy, who confirmed the incident, but refused to comment due to her ‘vulnerable condition’. She reportedly stays at Gobichettipalayam, about 27 km. away from the judge’s residence, and is the sole breadwinner of her family as her husband is unwell. Justice Selvam however told NDTV that he had done nothing wrong.
Retd. Justice K. Chandru was quoted as claiming that such instances are not new in Tamil Nadu. “One of the earliest recorded cases known to us was an order issued by the then High Court registrar in 1937, asking judicial officers to not use Class IV employees for house duty,” Justice Chandru explained. A resolution was also passed by a Class IV Employees association formed in 1980. The resolution had urged the Chief Justice to “define the work of an employee sent to house duty”.
“After a prolonged delay, in 1992, the then Chief Justice Kanta Kumari Bhatnagar wrote on the file that ‘they (employees) are asked to perform such duties as may be assigned to them by the respective judicial officers’,” Justice Chandru said.
The practice continues, with staff members suspended for not falling in line. “Two years ago, a judge issued a memo for not cooking fish curry. In another case, when a staff went out to buy medicine for himself, a judge in Kanyakumari asked why he failed to inform his wife. The judge even issued a memo which the High Court later cancelled,” recalled Justice Chandru.
PUCL State Secretary Advocate S. Balamurugan took note of the incident as a violation of basic rights of an individual, and appealed to the higher judiciary to take note of the incident suo motu.