The Supreme Court has recommended to the Madhya Pradesh High Court to consider the reinstatement of the former Additional District and Sessions Judge from Madhya Pradesh who had made allegations of sexual harassment against a sitting Judge of the High Court.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices R. Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna heard the matter and granted a period of four weeks' time to the complainant and the Madhya Pradesh High Court to conduct negotiations. In February, the Apex Court had been informed that the Complainant had resigned after she was being transferred out of Gwalior to Sidhi for having raised complaints of sexual harassment against the sitting Judge. An Inquiry Committee headed by Supreme Court judge, Justice R. Banumathi looked into the allegations and dismissed the same. The woman district Judge now sought for her reinstatement, without any prejudice to seniority, and was not seeking to pursue the complaint of sexual harassment. However, despite the Inquiry Committee holding that the Complainant's transfer was "unlawful", the Full Court of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had turned down her reinstatement for the third time. Today, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the woman district Judge, sought for the reinstatement of the Complainant in another State. She informed the Bench that she was "very keen to start work" and the reinstatement could not be materialized due to the lockdown imposed in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was opposed by Senior Advocate Ravindra Srivastava, appearing on behalf of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, who submitted that the reinstatement could not take place as the Complainant had voluntarily resigned. Further, she had been on probation. Jaising contended that the Complainant was to be reinstated, without any bearing on her seniority or her promotions. It was further submitted that while the Complainant was willing to forego back wages, she would not compromise on the aspect of seniority. "I am conscious of people's vested rights being affected. She can be sent to Rajasthan or somewhere where they need judges. She can be sent to a court where does not prejudice someone's seniority. She can be sent on deputation too." Jaising also submitted that the Complainant did not wish give up on her seniority as she aspired to be a High Court judge, and subsequently even a Supreme Court judge. If she had to start all over at the age of 48 years, it would be impossible for her to achieve her aspiration. To this the Chief Justice Bobde said, "But, if her intention is to work, then how does it matter? This matter has to be recommended to the Madhya Pradesh High Court We cannot take a call on how she is to be reinstated. You should tell her and counsel her." When Jaising stated, "How can I tell her to put down her aspirations?", Chief Justice Bobde responded, "You may not. For all we know, you may fan them further." On the basis of the above, the direction to conduct negotiations between the Complainant and the Madhya Pradesh High Court was given by the Supreme Court. The matter is now listed after four weeks.