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HindustanTimes Sun,13 Jul 2014

Sex assault charge claim: law intern seeks privacy

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 13, 2013
First Published: 14:10 IST(13/11/2013) | Last Updated: 20:26 IST(13/11/2013)

The law intern who alleged that a recently-retired Supreme Court judge sexually harassed her in a Delhi hotel room in December has requested media persons to ‘understand her need for privacy’ in a fresh post on her blog.

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The allegations she made in her blog earlier snowballed into a major controversy with the court on Tuesday setting up a panel of three sitting judges to look into the matter.

“Since yesterday, a lot of media persons have tried to contact me — either directly or through the journal. Since the committee has now been constituted, I will depose before the Hon’ble judges. Thus, it won’t be appropriate for me to speak to members of the media anymore. Moreover, I have nothing more to say than whatever I have already said in my blog post and the interview I gave to Legally India. I hope all of you will understand my need for privacy,” she wrote in her blog post that was published on November 12 after the apex court set up the probe.

The Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam, on Tuesday said, “As head of the institution, I am also concerned about the allegation.”

“It is an extremely serious matter and you have to look at it seriously,” Vahanvati, who has filed a petition seeking an inquiry, said.

The woman, who graduated from National University of Juridical Sciences (Kolkata) this year, made the allegation in a blog post in the Journal of Indian Law and Society, and later in an interview to a website, but did not name the judge.  She said the incident took place on December 24, 2012 — a time when the entire nation was on the boil over the 16/12 gang rape.

“… Interning during the winter vacations of my final year in university, I dodged police barricades and fatigue to go to the assistance of a highly reputed, recently retired Supreme Court judge I was working under. For my supposed diligence, I was rewarded with sexual assault (not physically injurious, but nevertheless violating) from a man old enough to be my grandfather,” she wrote.

She also wrote she’d taken the “cowardly” decision not to wage a legal battle, but later chose to speak out.

“We are anxious (to know) if the statement is true or not,” the SC bench told Vahanvati, adding that a committee comprising justice RM Lodha, justice HL Dattu and justice Ranjana Prakash Desai would look into it and submit a report within two weeks. "In cases of sexual harassment, we cannot take it lightly...We are taking steps,” it said. The court will hear the AG’s petition after two weeks.

Retired Delhi high court judge Justice RS Sodhi said, “I feel it is highly scandalous to pull down an institution (judiciary) of this magnitude and nature. An intern is virtually nothing in the judicial hierarchy. To come up after months with scandalous allegations is only wild card publicity for the reason that the man (judge) is so big that even a fly can hit him. Any scandalous utterances can shake the nation’s confidence in the institution.”

“If it’s true, it’s shameful and shocking,” justice Usha Mehra, also a retired Delhi HC judge, said. However, she added, “It’s difficult to believe what she said, but what she alleged should be investigated and the person concerned be taken to task. If she is bold enough to reveal the incident, she should have named the judge. Let the person be identified and condemned. The judiciary as a whole should not be painted black.”


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