The Supreme Court three-judge Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian refused to quash disciplinary proceedings against a Madhya Pradesh Judge in a sexual harassment case filed by a junior judicial officer, reported Bar & Bench.
CJI SA Bobde noted that “sexual harassment allegations cannot be brushed aside under the carpet”, while refusing to quash the plea but granted him the liberty to appear before the inquiry.
Senior Advocate Balasubramaniam, who appeared for the petition was reportedly told by the Bench, “You are walking on a very thin ice, you can fall any time. You may have a chance that you may be acquitted. But as matters stand now, you are convicted.”
LiveLaw reported that after hearing the arguments, the Bench stated that it will write a short order dealing with the petitioner’s contention and dismiss the Special Leave Petition. However, on the Senior Counsel Balasubramaniam’s request for liberty to withdraw, the Court granted him permission to withdraw the case with liberty to participate in the inquiry.
During the previous hearing on this matter, Senior Advocate Ravindra Shrivastava, appearing for the Madhya Pradesh High Court, had read out some WhatsApp messages sent by the petitioner judge to the complainant/judicial officer who was harassed.
To this, LiveLaw had quoted the CJI saying, “To flirt with a junior official is not an acceptable conduct for a judge.” The WhatsApp messages were found to be “offensive and improper.”
The sexual harassment complaint against the Madhya Pradesh judge was registered in 2018. He had earlier approached the Supreme Court to quash the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the High Court, but the top court had declined to entertain it, asking him to approach the High Court instead.
As the High Court refused to entertain his plea, he once again approached the apex court, which stayed the disciplinary proceedings against the judge in September last year, according to a report in Bar & Bench.
In the previous hearing in the top court on February 16, the Bench had recorded that the High Court is proceeding with the matter even though the petitioner has retired from service as it wanted to “send a strong message”. The Bench was also told that a charge-sheet has been filed in the departmental proceedings, which the petitioner has not chosen to challenge.
“This matter before the Gender Sensitisation Committee has come to an end with the lady refusing to participate. Now the High Court wants to proceed. It is duty bound to proceed also, in a departmental enquiry. Is there any law which can prevent the High Court from proceeding with enquiry? Right to departmental enquiry is an inherent right of the employer even if there is no provision in the service law”, remarked the CJI.