A Madhya Pradesh high court judge accused of sexual harassment said on Monday he was ready to face death penalty if found guilty.
Amid reports that have the potential to deliver a blow to the image of the higher judiciary, the judge of the Gwalior bench wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha, saying he had the "highest regard to the institution".
A controversy broke out on Monday after reports that an additional district and sessions judge in Gwalior had quit her job accusing a judge of the Madhya Pradesh high court of sexual harassment.
She also accused the judge of seeking sexual favours from her, and wrote to the CJI explaining the reasons that forced her to resign.
According to reports, the accused had asked the additional judge to "perform dance on an item song" at a function at his home and influenced her transfer to a remote location.
Rejecting the charges made by the woman judge, who also headed a district-level committee to look into sexual harassment at workplace, the high court judge said he was ready to face any probe by any agency including an investigating agency.
"In regard to the woman judge and even in regard to any lady, an investigation can also be done whether I have ever harassed or abused any of the lady employees or any subordinate judge," he said in his two-page letter to the CJI.
"I am ready to face any penalty, even the death penalty (if found guilty)."
Meanwhile, the State Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh (SBCMP) demanded that the charges should be thoroughly probed by the CJI.
Talking to HT, SBCMP chairperson Rameshwar Neekhra said, "This is a very serious matter. Whether the charges hold any truth or not should be decided after an inquiry. There should be no room for any aspersion on the integrity of judiciary. Hence, a thorough probe is badly required."
"We call the judges 'My Lord'. Meaning of the words means we hold them in high esteem and similar to the God. As per our belief, God doesn't do any wrong. Hence, for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the judiciary the probe is required."
Neekhra added all aspects of the case - like why the woman judge levelled the allegations only after she was transferred or why she did not lodge the complaint to the CJI earlier - should be probed.
"If the administrative judge is found guilty he should be punished and if the woman judge is found guilty of levelling false allegations against the administrative judge, she should be punished too."
The additional judge, in her complaint, alleged the administrative judge told her "he missed the opportunity of viewing a sexy and beautiful figure dancing on the floor and that he is desperate to see the same" a day after his "request".
The additional judge also alleged that when she spurned the judge's "various advances and malicious aspirations", he targeted her professionally.
"The administrative judge, along with district judge and district judge (inspection), possibly made a false, frivolous, baseless and malicious reporting to the chief justice of MP and got me transferred on July 8, in the mid-academic session of my daughters to a remote place, Sidhi, by overruling the transfer policy of MP HC," she wrote in her complaint.
She said her appeal for an eight-month extension so that her daughter, who is in Class 12, could finish her academic year was rejected.
(with PTI inputs)
Read: Gwalior judge alleges sexual harassment by HC judge