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Addl solicitor general makes intern's affidavit against Ganguly public

Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising on Monday made public an affidavit by a law intern, who has accused former SC judge AK Ganguly of sexual harassment, sparking fresh demands for his resignation as the chairman of the West Bengal rights panel.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2013 13:37 IST
HT Correspondent

Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising on Monday made public an affidavit by a law intern, who has accused former Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly of sexual harassment, sparking fresh demands for his resignation as the chairman of the West Bengal rights panel.

In her affidavit to a three-judge panel, set up by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam to look into her allegations, the intern described in detail his alleged behaviour when she went to assist him with a report in a five-star hotel in New Delhi.

Ganguly has denied the allegations and refused to step down as West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) chief.

Jaising said on Monday that she had made the excepts public with the "full support" of the intern, who is now a lawyer with an NGO, and if Ganguly refuses to resign, then the process should be initiated for his removal by the President of India.

She had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday and sought Ganguly's removal as the head of WBHRC.

"I would like state very unambiguously that whatever I am doing, I am doing with her (intern's) complete cooperation and keeping her in the loop and I would never ever make a document like this public unless I had her full support," the law officer said.

She was responding to a question whether she should have gone public with the excerpts when the intern herself has chosen not to do so and neither has she filed a police complaint in this regard.

Jaising in a special report to the Indian Express questioned Ganguly's stand that he treated the woman, now a lawyer with an NGO, as his child saying "Is this how you would treat your daughter, My Lord?"

"Justice Ganguly continues to hide behind the presumption of innocence and to get vocal support from powerful members of the judicial and legal fraternity since the details of the incident are not in the public domain," she wrote.

Jaising had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday and sought Ganguly's removal from the post of chairman of WBHRC.

"Have wine, stay in the same room with me"

In the report, she quotes excerpts from the woman's affidavit to the three-member panel about how Ganguly asked her to spend the night in his bedroom in a five-star hotel and told her that he is attracted to her.

"He also said that since I had had a long day, I should go into his bedroom and relax while drinking some wine," Jaising quoted the woman lawyer as saying.

The law officer further writes that Ganguly made calls asking for a room to be booked in the same hotel for the woman despite her refusal to stay.

"The judge kept ignoring my protests and then informed me that it may not be possible to have a separate room arranged for me, and asked me if I would stay in the same room with him to help him finish the report."

In her report, Jaising quotes the victim as saying that Ganguly consumed alcohol and insisted that she too does the same.

"During this period, the judge had not only quickly consumed few glasses of wine, but had also taken out a bottle of Bacardi white rum and taken a few drinks of rum as well. I had, however, taken barely a few sips of the wine, although the judge was repeatedly asking me to finish my glass so that he could refill it. At this time, the judge again tried to persuade me to stay in his room, stating that he would not be able to finish compiling the report on his own, and he would guide me how to compile the same. Again, I declined."

Ganguly made unwelcome sexual advances despite the fact that she "moved away, clearly indicating to the judge that this physical contact was unwelcome and not proper behaviour on his part", according to the intern.

"However, the judge did not remove his hand from my back, and then moved forward to embrace me. I no longer felt safe and was extremely suspicious of his intentions.

"... the judge approached me and, standing next to me, he put his hand on my head, and said, 'You are very beautiful'. I immediately rose from my seat, but before I had a chance to respond to the statement, he caught hold of my arm, saying, 'You know that I'm attracted to you, don't you? You must be thinking, what, this old man is getting drunk and saying such things. But I really like you, I love you'. When I tried to move away, he kissed my arm and repeated that he loved me."

According to the affidavit, the woman then left the room but the judge followed her into the elevator and begged her not to leave.

"I left the hotel at around 10.30pm. After the car arrived, I returned in it to the PG where I was staying. After reaching the PG, I received a call from the judge asking if I had reached. I curtly said yes and disconnected the call immediately."

The woman told the panel that Ganguly apologised to her through a text message the next morning and continued calling her.

"The next morning, I sent an SMS to the judge stating that given the incidents of the previous night, I felt that I could no longer continue to work under him. The message was sent at approximately 9 am, on 25th December 2012. Thereupon, the judge pestered me with innumerable calls through the morning. However, I did not answer any of his calls. The judge also sent me a text message apologising for the previous night, and requested that I converse with him for five minutes. I did not respond to this message, and the judge continued calling me several times. I did not answer any of his calls."

Jaising says in her reports that the accusations have been "prima facie been established by three judges of the Supreme Court, two of whom are incumbent chief justices."

"What have you got to say now, My Lord? Does this not call for your resignation from the post of Chair of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. And if you still refuse to, am I not justified in asking the Prime Minister to request the President of India for your immediate removal from this post, My Lord?"

The intern had given her statement to the apex court panel besides providing affidavits of witnesses to whom she had spoken immediately after the incident. The panel had video recorded Ganguly's statement in which he denied the allegation of any sexual harassment.

The panel had indicted him by holding that the statement of the intern, both wirtten and oral, had prima facie disclosed "an act of unwelcome behaviour (unwelcome verbal/non-verbal conduct of sexual nature)" by Ganguly with her in the Le Meridien hotel room approximately between 8pm and 10.30pm.

However, the panel said that since he was no longer a sitting judge of the apex court, and the victim was not on the rolls of the court, no further action was needed to be taken by the apex court in the matter.

"Ganguly has to go"

As pressure mounted on Ganguly to resign, law minister Kapil Sibal said he was waiting to see when the apex court "rises to the occasion" to deal with the issue.

"Waiting to see when and how the Supreme Court rises to the occasion to deal with Justice Ganguly," Sibal tweeted.

His remarks on Twitter came days after he questioned the decision of the Supreme Court of not taking further action against Ganguly just because he has retired, saying the issue cannot be "brushed under the carpet".

The allegation against Ganguly was raised in Parliament on Friday with the BJP and the Trinamool Congress demanding his removal as chairman of West Bengal rights panel, saying that he should have resigned ethical grounds by now.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who had chosen Ganguly as the chairman of WBHRC after coming to power in 2011, has written twice to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking strong action against the former judge.

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said law must be equal for all.

"Why cannot a case be filed against the judge? If cases can be filed against politicians and journalists, why not justice Ganguly?" he asked.

CPI leader D Raja stressed that Ganguly should quit from his constitutional position.

"It is better to uphold the judicial prudence and the value in public life. Mr Ganguly has to go," he said.

The intern had written a blog, on November 6 on the website Legally India, accusing the former SC judge of sexually harassing her at a hotel in New Delhi on December 24, 2012 when the Capital was in the grip of protest following the fatal gang-rape of a paramedical student.

The CJI had set up the committee on November 12 to look into her allegations after the issue was widely reported in mainstream media.

(With inputs from Agencies)