The Supreme Court Thursday quashed an ‘in-house’ panel constituted by the Madhya Pradesh high court chief justice to probe allegations of sexual harassment against a sitting judge there and divested the accused judge of all administrative and supervisory functions.
A bench, headed by justice JS Kehar, said the committee in question comprised of colleagues of the judge in question — a violation of the system evolved by the top court and requested Chief Justice HL Dattu to constitute a fresh committee of judges other than those from the Madhya Pradesh high court.
The SCorder came on a petition filed by the woman who alleged she was sexually harassed by the said HC judge while she served as the additional district and sessions judge in Gwalior. The complainant later resigned and then wrote a letter to the then CJI RM Lodha. But, she moved the top court after Madhya Pradesh chief justice constituted the committee in violation of the procedure prescribed by the SC.
“As in certain situations it may be true, that judges of the same Court being colleagues of the concerned judge, would endeavour to exculpate him from his predicament,” the bench observed. It further added: “Animosity amongst colleagues is not unknown ” “Whether the perception of the harassed individual, was conveyed to the person accused, would be very material, in a case falling in the realm of over-sensitivity. In that, it would not be open to him (accused) thereafter, to defend himself by projecting that he had not sexually harassed the person concerned, because in his understanding the alleged action was unoffending,” the court said.