Saying that she was emboldened by the stand taken by her fellow student who complained of alleged sexual harassment by former Supreme Court Justice A K Ganguly, another young woman and former student of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, is learnt to have complained to Chief Justice of India Justice P Sathasivam that she was sexually harassed by a former judge of the Supreme Court.
What makes this case more significant than the one involving Justice Ganguly — who resigned two days ago as chief of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission — is the fact that unlike Ganguly, who had retired when the alleged sexual harassment incident involving him took place, the judge in this case was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court when the alleged incident took place. And the complainant was, officially, an intern in his office.
Her internship began in May 2011 when the judge and his office were actively involved in organising a conference. That judge now holds a post-retirement job having been nominated to it by the then Chief Justice of India.
The Indian Express has confirmed from sources in Delhi and Kolkata that the woman sent her detailed complaint to the CJI last month. However, she was told by the apex court that there was little the CJI could do and that she could take appropriate action under law. It is likely that the complainant will file a petition seeking action against the former judge.
In her complaint, the woman is learnt to have narrated two instances of how she was allegedly sexually assaulted by the former judge. Sources said that “strongly disturbed and upset” with the behaviour of the judge, the woman left the internship mid-way. She is learnt to have talked to her close friends and family about the incident. Sources said she decided to bring the alleged incident to the CJI’s notice after the swift response of the apex court to the allegations against Ganguly.
Despite attempts, the CJI could not be reached for his comment. However, a source cited the December 5 decision of the full court, where it was made clear that “representations made against former judges of this court are not entertainable by the administration of the Supreme Court”, to say why the CJI had not taken action on the complaint.
When asked, Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising refused to comment saying she had no information about this case. On the full court decision, Jaising said: “Let’s divide this issue into two parts. One is, will they (SC) inquire into the conduct of retired judges when the incident occurred after retirement (as in the case of Ganguly)? The second is will they inquire into the conduct of a judge who maybe retired today but was a sitting judge when the incident occurred? In my opinion, the full-court order, if it applies to an incident which occurred when the judge was a sitting judge is not a correct decision. I would maintain that, forget jurisdiction, they have the duty and the authority to investigate any complaint made by any woman that she was harassed by a person who was a sitting judge when she was an official intern with the SC. There’s no way they can wash their hands of it.”
But in his order, Justice Sathasivam, disposing the Ganguly matter in light of the report of the three-judge probe panel constituted by him on November 12, said that since the complainant “was not an intern on the roll of the SC and the concerned judge has already demitted office on account of superannuation on the date of incident”, no follow-up action was required by the apex court.
On November 6, 2013, a lawyer who had interned with Justice Ganguly had blogged about being sexually assaulted by the judge in December 2012 when the judge was retired while the complainant was not working with him as an intern.
The committee of three judges constituted to probe the matter said that the statement of the intern “prima facie” disclosed an act of “unwelcome behaviour (unwelcome verbal/non-verbal conduct of sexual nature)” by Justice Ganguly.
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