Monday, August 4, 2014

Gwalior additional judge says she was sexually harassed by HC judge, quits // Activists demand impeachment

An additional district and sessions judge in Gwalior, who was heading the Vishaka committee against sexual harassment, could not save herself from the prying eyes of a Madhya Pradesh high court judge and had to resign from judicial service to protect her "dignity, womanhood and self-esteem". After practicing law for 15 years in Delhi courts, she passed the MP Higher Judicial Service exam and was posted in Gwalior on August 1, 2011. After training under Justice D K Paliwal, she was posted as additional district and sessions judge in Gwalior in October 2012.

In April 2013, she was appointed chairperson of District Vishaka Committee. Her annual confidential report of January 2014 termed her work "excellent and outstanding". But that was not enough. The administrative judge from Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh HC kept pestering her to visit him in his bungalow alone, she alleged.

In her complaint to Chief Justice of India R M Lodha and Supreme Court judges Justices H L Dattu, T S Thakur, Anil R Dave, Dipak Misra and Arun Misra, as well as the MP HC chief justice, she said the administrative judge sent her a message through the district registrar to "perform dance on an item song" at a function in his residence. She avoided the function on the pretext of her daughter's birthday.

Responding to her complaint, Justice Lodha said, "This is the only profession where we refer to our colleagues as brothers and sisters. This is unfortunate. I will take appropriate action after the complaint is placed before me."

The very next day of sending a message to dance in his residence, the administrative judge told her that "he missed the opportunity of viewing a sexy and beautiful figure dancing on the floor and that he is desperate to see the same", she alleged. The judge got angry when she did not pay heed to his "various advances and malicious aspirations". She was subjected to intense scrutiny by the administrative judge. He got more agitated when no fault was found, she said. "I started commencing court at 10.30 am instead of 11 am and extended the working hours in the evening by one hour to 6 pm," she said but complained that this did not appease the administrative judge, who continued to harass her.

Tired of harassment, she along with her husband on June 22 went to meet the administrative judge, who was "irritated" to find her with her husband and asked her to meet him after 15 days. But even before 15 days could have elapsed, she was served with a transfer order. In her complaint, she said, "The administrative judge, along with district judge and district judge (inspection), possibly made a false, frivolous, baseless and malicious reporting to the chief justice of MP and got me transferred on July 8, in the mid-academic session of my daughters to a remote place Sidhi by overruling the transfer policy of MP HC."

Her representation for eight-month extension to allow her daughters complete the academic session was rejected. Left with no choice, she called on the administrative judge and pleaded against the abrupt transfer saying it would affect the studies of her child who was in Class 12. In her complaint, she said, "Mockingly, he replied that I faced this mid-academic session transfer to Sidhi for not fulfilling his aspirations and for not visiting his bungalow alone even once and he also threatened me that now he will spoil my career completely and make sure that I face ruinous prospects all my life."

She claimed the HC chief justice declined to meet her when she wanted to apprise him of the situation. "I was left with no option but to resign, so, I resigned on July 15 in compelling, humiliating and disgraceful circumstances to save my dignity, womanhood, self-esteem and career of my daughter."

Seeking justice from the CJI, she said, "Only because the perpetrator is as powerful as an 'administrative judge' that he can cast an evil eye on me, and I do not even get a hearing. What system are we following and leading this democracy to? If this is how a mother, sister and wife can be treated, who is herself no less than a judicial officer duty-bound to protect society and law, what constitutional goals are we serving?"

On the evening of 4th August a Press Conference was held at the Constitution Club in New Delhi to highlight the implications of the issue of the sexual harassment of Woman Additional Sessions Judge by a sitting Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Press Conference was addressed by Indira Jaising, Uma Chakravarthy, Suneeta Dhar and Vrind Grover.

The main demands presented by them are given below. 

We appeal to all members of Parliament and the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India:-

Rise above party lines and communicate to the Speaker of both Houses your collective resolve to initiate impeachment motion. It is imperative that any motion to impeach must be supported by 50 MPs from the Rajya Sabha or 100 MPs from the Lok Sabha.
 In other words, we urge the Parliamentarians to initiate the impeachment proceedings towards the removal of the judge in question

We also appeal to the Chief justice of India to initiate his own enquiry into the allegations and to make sure that no work is assigned to the concerned High COurt Judge pending a decision of the enquiry.

In this connection we urge the Chief Justice of India to set up immediately and in accordance with Vishaka, permanent internal complaints committees with the mandatory presence of external members on it and once set up to transfer all complaints against sitting and former judges for enquiry. but not the least we also want to appeal to the High Court not to accept the resignation of the woman additional district judge and to confer another appropriate and meaningful assignment to her.