Statement by the NALSAR Student Body
We have watched, with a growing sense of alarm, the developments following Stella James’ blog post on the range of emotions she felt having been sexually harassed by an eminent retired Supreme Court judge. We stand behind Ms James and admire the dignity and fortitude she has displayed in the face of attacks from all quarters.
While we fully respect the presumption of innocence that every accused person is entitled to in a criminal trial and recognise Justice Ganguly’s right to seek apposite legal remedies and defend himself, the finding—by a three-member Committee of Supreme Court judges—that there is prima facie evidence of an unwelcome sexual act having been committed, compounded by the reprehensible allegation by Justice Ganguly that Ms James is a political pawn, compels us to seek his resignation from the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. This is a question of probity of conduct in an office of trust, and given the Supreme Court Committee’s findings, the Attorney General of India’s comments to the Home Ministry—that it there is enough evidence to proceed against the judge—and Justice Ganguly’s own responses to these allegations, we believe that this trust has been lost. We do, however, wish to dissociate ourselves from all attempts to hijack the issue of unsafe working environments by factions seeking to serve other ulterior ends.
As students and interns, ourselves, we wish to highlight the fact that there exists a fiduciary duty of the individual towards an intern (who is seeking experience and knowledge, and is not merely a temporary employee). The need for protection against harassment in such a relationship is most keenly felt.
We have noted, with apprehension, the reaction from several fronts seeking to avoid ‘trouble’ by refusing to take women interns. We would urge the legal fraternity to work towards creating systems and workplaces that are non-discriminatory and safe, as opposed to closing itself off from introspection. We hope that this moment will cause law chambers and law schools to create protocols of oversight and reporting which give confidence to students to stand up against wrongful behaviour.