Chief Justice of India H L Dattu has set up a three-judge committee for a “deeper probe” into the sexual harassment complaint against a sitting judge of Madhya Pradesh high court after receiving a preliminary inquiry report on a complaint by a woman judicial officer who had resigned last year alleging harassment.
The committee will comprise two chief justices of high courts and a high court judge. “The committee shall hold inquiry into the allegations contained in the complaint. The inquiry shall be in the nature of a fact-finding inquiry, wherein the judge concerned would be entitled to appear and have his say,” Supreme Court registry sources said.
However, this inquiry will not be a formal judicial inquiry involving the examination and cross-examination of witnesses and representation by lawyers, they said. The committee will devise its own procedure.
If the committee finds that sexual harassment charges stood proved and were of such nature to warrant removal of the HC judge, then the CJI would first advise the judge to resign. If he does not, then the CJI would direct the chief justice of the HC not to allocate any judicial work to him and write to the President and the prime minister for initiation of proceedings for the judge’s removal.
The additional district and sessions judge in Gwalior, who was heading the Vishaka committee against sexual harassment, had alleged that she could not save herself from the prying eyes of the HC judge and had to resign from judicial service to protect her “dignity, womanhood and self-esteem”.
In her complaint sent in August last year to the then CJI and several Supreme Court judges, she had alleged that the HC judge sent her a message through the district court registrar to “perform dance on an item song” at a function in his residence. She avoided the function on the pretext of her daughter’s birthday.
The very next day, the HC judge told her that “he missed the opportunity of viewing a sexy and beautiful figure dancing on the floor and that he is desperate to see the same”, she alleged. Following her refusal, she was subjected to intense scrutiny by the HC judge, who was also the administrative judge for the district.
The MP HC chief justice had set up an inquiry panel. But she moved the Supreme Court challenging the fairness of the inquiry. The SC had quashed the inquiry and requested the CJI to set up a fresh preliminary probe by another HC chief justice.
The CJI entrusted the preliminary probe to the Karnataka HC chief justice, who recently submitted his report on the complaint with an opinion that the allegations needed a “deeper probe”.
Following the in-house procedure to inquire into complaints against HC judges, the CJI then constituted a three-member committee in terms of paragraph (3), sources in Supreme Court registry said.
The CJI’s decision came after he considered the complaint in the light of the response of the HC judge concerned and the comments of the HC chief justice. The CJI was of the opinion that a deeper probe was required into the allegations.