In a nuanced post published in the blog of the Journal of Indian Law and Society on November 6, a recent graduate of Kolkata’s National University of Juridical Sciences, alleged that a recently retired Supreme Court judge “old enough to be my grandfather” had sexually harassed her in a hotel room on December 24, 2012.
This happened against the backdrop of the protests against the brutal Delhi gang-rape, the incident that propelled India’s problem of sexual violence onto the front pages and made it an issue of national importance like never before.
The blog was soon being discussed widely. Most were aghast that a Supreme Court judge, in a blatant abuse of power, had taken advantage of an intern, the lowest, most defenceless person in any professional pecking order.
The incident, if it happened, shows that the judge in question was so sure of his power and so bereft of a sense of justice, that he was willing to harass a young woman who could not retaliate and hope to escape with her career intact.
And in case you thought the incident was a one-off, she revealed that other interns had also been harassed by the same judge and had chosen to remain silent.
The storm that followed the post, with many wondering about the possibility of getting justice in cases of sexual harassment from a judiciary so complicit in the abuse of women, galvanised the legal establishment into action and a panel comprising three sitting Supreme Court judges has been constituted to investigate lawyer’s allegations.
The smoke from that bombshell had barely dispersed when the CBI director Ranjit Sinha dropped another one by comparing the need for legalising betting in sports to enjoying rape.
Reports have emerged that CBI officers, in an attempt to suppress the news of Sinha’s atrocious remark, walked around the press conference suggesting to people that they had not heard what he said correctly.
While CPI-M leader Brinda Karat’s call for the removal of the CBI director for his remark might be excessive — he is an officer with a proven track record — he definitely needs to be sent to a ‘re-education camp’.
Indeed, in the light of the law intern's blog, the CBI chief’s insensitive remarks, and the unrelenting sexism that Indian women face, it’s time we had a serious national conversation about the entrenched misogyny in our most revered institutions and how that perverts everyday interactions between the sexes, and in the end, the very systems that we rely on to provide justice to women.