In the end, it amounted to being dragged away kicking and screaming. Not the most dignified way for a jurist of such eminence as Justice AK Ganguly who has now resigned from the West Bengal Human Rights Commission weeks after being accused of sexual harassment by a legal intern. The judge has all along maintained his innocence but had to finally go under intense pressure and at the advice of legal luminaries like former attorney general Soli Sorabjee.
The resignation was not entirely unexpected after the Union Cabinet gave its assent to a presidential reference to the Supreme Court to probe the harassment charges brought about by the intern. There are many who are of the opinion that Justice Ganguly has been hounded, but at the same time also acknowledge that it takes immense courage for a young intern to take on a powerful judicial figure. There have also been hints, especially from the judge himself that vested interests who he may have hurt through his rulings may be behind the ‘witch hunt’.
But, however this pans out, Justice Ganguly has done himself and his high office a grave disservice by clinging on to the position. If he had stepped down in the first instance, it would not have been an admission of guilt at all. In fact, he would have been lauded for displaying such probity and dignity. His argument could have been that he could not continue to preside over the human rights commission when such an allegation, in itself a violation of human rights, has been levelled against him. Instead, the whole thing became a media circus with the Trinamool Congress jumping into the fray and trying to gain political mileage out of it.
In fact, the more legal luminaries vouched for Justice Ganguly, the more unequal the fight between him and the intern seemed. The whole episode, whether true or not, has raised the issue of the silence within the judiciary over such things within its ranks. The victim here has detailed chapter and verse the incident in which the judge allegedly behaved inappropriately with her. A three-member bench of the Supreme Court has found that prima facie there is a case against the judge. In the light of all this, Justice Ganguly should have facilitated the way to clear his name much earlier.
Being a high judicial personage, he should have conducted himself like Caesar’s wife even if it proved somewhat painful. Now he cannot escape suspicion that he gave in only when the cards were stacked decisively against him. It almost seems that he believed initially that he could use his stature to weather the storm. Not the best precedent by any standards, especially those that the judiciary holds itself up to.