The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea challenging the report submitted by the Internal Committee inquiring into sexual harassment allegations against a Judicial Officer in the state of Madhya Pradesh
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee & Surya Kant refused to entertain the plea which challenged the decision taken by the Internal Committee (IC) averring that the report was "arbitrary" and "illegal" in terms of section 10 of the Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal Act), 2013 (the Act).
The court stated that the Petitioner could not have invoked Article 32 of the Constitution and that he should approach the High Court instead.
The plea had been filed by a a Judicial Officer through Advocate Sachin Sharma holding the post of Principal District Judge, and 7th Senior Most in the list of District Judges who are in Super Time Scale (STS) Cadre of the Higher Judicial Services (HJS) of the State stating that the consequential issue of show cause notice by the IC is illegal.
"....the entire action is visited with arbitrariness, malafide and in complete violation of the principles of natural justice by holding enquiry and or recording statements behind the back of the petitioner at different stages without participation of the petitioner... This is a classic case where the facts are speaking for themselves as to how the Gender Sensitisation Internal Complaint Committee ("GSICC" for short), completely negated the provisions of Section 10 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, (hereinafter referred to as "the Act" for short) by rejecting the Application for conciliation submitted by the complainant i.e. Complainant"
The plea contends that the committee did not follow the procedures laid down in the Act and neither have the provisions of Gender Sensitisation And Sexual Harassment Of Women At The High Court of Madhya Pradesh And Its Subordinate Courts (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Regulations, 2015 ["Regulations of 2015" for short] been complied with while conducting the inquiry process against the petitioner.
Further to this, the plea contended that the report of the IC is unsustainable in law for gross violations of "principles of natural justice" which are an essential aspect of the Act and applicable regulations.
"In the present case, it is submitted that principles of natural justice have been violated with impunity throughout both by the GSICC and also prior to that in the conduct of the inquiries. That the action is also unreasonable and arbitrary for the simple reason that the foundation of the action in holding a preliminary enquiry against the petitioner, as also the subsequent action of the GSICC in recording partial statement of the complainant both were done behind his back and in complete violation of "audi alteram partem" rule i.e. that no person can be condemned unheard or in other words that 'Justice should not only been done but seen to be done" - Extract of plea
In light of this, the petitioner had challenged the recommendation of the Committee to initiate de novo inquiry proceedings against the petitioner and consequent follow up action to initiate disciplinary enquiry against the petitioner.
"The Writ Petition therefore, raises interalia fundamental questions regarding guarantee of service tenure, guarantee of personal liberty and reputation in service, right to lead dignified life with status and guarantee against unwanted, unreasonable and arbitrary action of holding repeated investigation by four different enquiries, on the same issue, against a senior member of Higher Judicial Service, in complete violation of Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India as would be clear from the facts set out herein after"