New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on a plea by a senior district judge in Madhya Pradesh, who is scheduled to retire at the year-end, for quashing of sexual harassment charges levelled against him by a woman judicial officer in 2018. The apex court has also stayed disciplinary proceedings against the district judge.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justices A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian issued notice to the Madhya Pradesh High Court on the plea.
Citing this case where the judge is close to elevation and then something happens, the bench said it is a regular phenomenon in the system, all kinds of things start happening. The counsel representing the petitioner submitted before the bench that his client has an unblemished 32 years of service, and the judge was about to be considered for elevation to the High Court. He contended that all of a sudden, a 2018 complaint surfaces and an inquiry is initiated.
The district judge moved the apex court seeking a stay on the August 14 order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which dismissed his plea at hearing itself holding that there was no illegality in facts or in law in the April 30 final report submitted by the Gender Sensitisation Internal Complaint Committee (GSICC). The GSICC report favoured further disciplinary action against the judge. This was challenged in the apex court. In June, the top court had asked the judge to move the High Court, which dismissed his plea.
The petitioner argued that the principle of natural justice has been violated while handling the complaint against him. "It is submitted that Section 11 of the Act read with Rule 7 (4) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 and Regulation 10 of 2015 Regulations mandates that the principles of natural justice ought to be followed into the inquiry of the complaint by the Internal Committee", said the plea.
The plea contended that the GSICC began the inquiry under section 11 of the Act, which in law is forbidden to do so, by keeping the conciliation application pending for a long period of five months. The plea submitted that there is no power vested with the GSICC to conduct the inquiry in the present case once a conciliation application is submitted by the complainant and the GSICC has recorded a categorical finding that the allegations are not proved and that it would be just and proper to close the enquiry. In March 2018, a complaint of sexual harassment was made against the petitioner.