Taking up the petition of a lawyer who has alleged sexual harassment by retired Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar, the top court Wednesday asked her why she had waited so long to complain but clarified that it wasn’t expressing any opinion on the allegations.
It also issued notices to Justice (retd) Kumar, the Centre and the SC secretary general on her plea seeking a permanent mechanism to deal with such cases against retired and serving judges of the high court and SC.
The petitioner, a graduate from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, had recently complained to the Chief Justice of India that Justice Kumar had sexually harassed her in May 2011, when she was interning with him. Justice Kumar, now chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, has rejected the charge.
“Being a law graduate, why did she wait so long? Our apprehension is that there are several retired judges. Someone can file a complaint against a judge 20 years after his retirement. We might have a 90-year-old defending himself,” a bench headed by CJI P Sathasivam said, adding that it wasn’t expressing opinion on the charges.
Agreeing with the court’s apprehension, counsel for the petitioner, Harish Salve, said a mechanism was needed to sort out just this kind of problem. “A time-frame should be indicated for complainants to file complaints,” he said.
In her complaint, the petitioner has also challenged the December 5 decision of a full court of the SC to not look into cases against retired judges.
Fixing the next hearing for February 14, the bench asked senior advocates Fali S Nariman and KK Venugopal to assist the court as amicus curae and even sought attorney general GE Vahavati’s assistance. It also allowed women organisations to become a party in the case.