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Former judge who alleged sexual harassment moves Supreme Court for reinstatement

Indian Express 2018-08-06 00:56:22
She has asked the Supreme Court to treat her resignation as ‘constructive termination’ since it was ‘actuated by illegal mid-term transfer’

A FORMER district judge, who had resigned in 2014 after alleging sexual harassment by a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, has moved the Supreme Court seeking reinstatement to “secure her fundamental right to employment and to work and carry on her profession”.

In her petition, she has asked the court to treat her resignation as “constructive termination” since “her resignation was neither voluntary nor conscious” but was “actuated by her illegal mid-term transfer which was punitive, irregular, unjustified, arbitrary and actuated by bias/mala fides” amounting to “constructive dismissal”. The plea argues that the dismissal “merits to be set aside”.

The former judicial officer had alleged that the judge, who was at the time her supervisor, had sexually harassed her from December 2013 till after her resignation on July 17, 2014. On rebuking his advances, she alleged that she was subjected to “victimisation”, culminating in her transfer from Gwalior to Sidhi. Before her resignation, she had submitted a representation on July 9, seeking an extension of eight months, in view of her elder daughter’s education, who was due to appear for her class XII examination the same year.

The Judges Inquiry Committee, constituted by the Rajya Sabha, noted in its report in December 2017 that the evidence on record was “suggestive of the respondent judge’s interference with the transfer and rejection of the representation of the complainant”. But since the “charges of sexual harassment are not proven, it cannot be said that this interference is on account of not submitting to his immoral demands”. The report concluded that “the transfer of the petitioner was in violation of the transfer policy — punitive, irregular, unjustified, arbitrary and hurried,” according to the plea.

The inquiry panel had also ruled in favour of reinstatement of the accused judge, who retired on Wednesday. The panel was formed after 58 members of the Rajya Sabha sought to initiate impeachment proceedings against the high court judge in 2015.

The petition alleges that the Madhya Pradesh High Court, through an administrative order in January, had dismissed the application made by the petitioner without “assigning any valid reasons for the rejection, and in utter disregard of the findings of fact” by the Judges Inquiry Committee that “concluded that the transfer of the petitioner was in violation of the transfer policy”.

Her plea added that the Madhya Pradesh High Court had said she could seek her reinstatement through a separate petition, but “the petitioner had a reasonable apprehension of bias against her in the event she pursues her remedy before the concerned High Court”.

Advocate Indira Jaising, who is representing the former district judge, said, “There should be Vishaka Committees for women judges across the country, apart from what happened to her. She’s not the only one this has happened to. So where do they go?”

The petitioner added, “Right now, I am working with victims of sexual harassment, rape victims and domestic abuse victims and giving them legal counsel, free of cost.”

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