Ravi Shankar Prasad counters SC judge Chelameswar with letter of his own to CJI
The law minister wrote to CJI Dipak Misra raising questions over the way in which senior judges handled charges of sexual harassment against a district judge in Karnataka whose name was cleared for appointment to the HC.india Updated: Apr 08, 2018 23:39 IST
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last week wrote to Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra raising questions over the way in which senior judges handled charges of sexual harassment against a district judge in Karnataka whose name was cleared for appointment to the high court, a government official said on Sunday.
Prasad wrote to the CJI talking of the lack of a “proper inquiry” into the matter and his letter is a strong counter to Supreme Court judge Justice Jasti Chelameswar’s letter to CJI Misra signed on March 21, the official said. Prasad could not be contacted for comments.
The SC judge had raised the issue of interference by the executive in the matter pertaining to the allegations against the district judge.
“We, the judges of the Supreme Court of India, are being accused of ceding our independence and institutional integrity to the executive’s incremental encroachment,” he had written.
The SC judge had red-flagged Karnataka Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari starting an inquiry into a complaint against the district judge after receiving a direct reference from the law ministry in December. The allegations pertain to the period between December 2013 and May 2015.
HT had reported on March 30 that the government had taken serious objection to the SC collegium – a body of top judges that makes appointments to the higher judiciary – not conducting a “proper inquiry” into charges of sexual harassment made by the judicial officer against the district judge, and persisting with appointing him as a judge in HC.
Making the lack of an inquiry following the “due process” an issue, the government is likely to go slow in clearing the appointment.
A top functionary in the ministry had defended referring the matter directly to the Karnataka HC by saying that a fresh complaint was made to both the Prime Minister and the President in December 2017 which was then sent by these offices to the law ministry’s department of justice. HT has reviewed copies of the identical complaints. The district judge had declined comment on the issue.
The official said the complaint was sent “routinely” to the HC Registrar General “because all ministries are bound by the guidelines, which say they must act on each complaint and file a status report on what happened.” The ministry had only asked for information on the action taken and not insisted on an inquiry, the official said.
Describing the probe against the district judge as uncalled for, Justice Chelameswar had pointed out that the judge’s name was cleared by the SC collegium after the allegations levelled against him were proved to be “incorrect and concocted”.
“No woman judge inquired into the matter. The so-called discreet inquiries are not on record,” the government functionary mentioned above said.
The government is of the view that the SC flouted its own guidelines on inquiring into sexual harassment matters laid down in the Vishakha case.
The complainant said in her complaint to the PM that she was not asked any questions on her allegations by any authority from the HC or the SC.