Act swiftly in intern case: Women lawyers

Abhinav Garg, TNN Dec 3, 2013,
(Senior Supreme Court lawyers…)

NEW DELHI: Senior Supreme Court lawyers, including eminent women advocates, have sought expeditious action on the report of the Supreme Court panel probing allegations of sexual harassment leveled by a law intern against a retired SC judge.

The report prepared by a three-judge committee of justices RM Lodha, HL Dattu and Ranjana Prakash Desai submitted its findings to the Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam last week and has not been made public.

Legal luminaries say now that the report is with the CJI, the case needs to be taken to its logical conclusion. If a cognizable offence is made out, an offence must be registered and if Justice A K Ganguly gets a clean chit he should be honorably exonerated.

A few also questioned the manner in which “former high ranking figures are throwing their weight behind Justice Ganguly” and highlighted how the SC administration did, after all, release the former judge’s name which it wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t prima facie satisfied with the report. Over the last two days, Ex CJI Altamas Kabir and former Attorney GeneralSoli Sorabjee have come out in support of Justice Ganguly.

Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising demanded that the report be made public. “The report requires to be immediately released to the woman complainant whose statement was recorded and to the public. If the SC has disclosed the name of the judge, then why shouldn’t the contents of the report be released?” she said.

Jaising said that this will put an end to the current “speculation if the committee has said the allegations are prima facie true or not.” The senior advocate also emphasized that “you can’t have differential treatment between ordinary citizens and former judges.” If the girl’s statement discloses cognizable offences, then the CJI should send it to the police for necessary action, she said.

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora favoured “fair and transparent action” and credited the CJI with acting swiftly in setting up a committee to inquire into the truth. “My concerns are not to bring pressure on this girl. She should not face prejudice or victimization. I can’t comment on the merit of the case as the report is not in the public domain. But if we have to take this movement forward where woman can speak freely against people in power, then case must be taken to its logical conclusion,” the lawyer said.

However, Arora also empathized with the “complicated position” the committee and the CJI find them in and added, “It isn’t so simple. I appreciate the CJI constituted the committee. There was no attempt to brush it under the carpet and the SC hasn’t hesitated. So we need to now go the whole way forward. No one is above law howsoever high you may be.”

Advocate Kamini Jaiswal called for action on the recommendation made by the three judge panel. “It is the duty of the Supreme Court to lodge an FIR in the case if a cognizable offence is disclosed. After all the committee has disclosed the judges name,” she said.

Senior advocate Anand Grover agreed, arguing, “You can’t have two standards.” Comparing the case of Tarun Tejpal with Justice Ganguly’s, the lawyer pointed out, “If Goa police can register an FIR against Tejpal in the absence of a written complaint, why not do the same here if information on a cognizable offence is passed on? You have to follow the law if an offence disclosed.”

Another senior advocate Raju Ramchandran said even though demand for Ganguly’s resignation is premature, “to give him a certificate” as done by former CJI Altamas Kabir is also uncalled for. “The ex CJI talks of conspiracy which even Justice Ganguly hasn’t talked about.” He added that he expected the report to be out in the next couple of days. He said, “At this time, the issue of resignation is a matter between Justice Ganguly and his conscience. One would expect that as a judge with a conscience who heads a human rights body, if such grave allegations have been leveled against him, he would go on leave. Even if a prima facie finding in the report emerges then he should resign immediately.”


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