The Supreme Court has indicted its former judge A K Ganguly in a sexual harassment case, but decided not to take the matter forward since the victim was not on court rolls nor was Ganguly still a judge when the alleged incident occurred. It reasoned that a representation against a former judge was “not entertainable”. The two page-administrative order by Chief Justice P Sathasivam however quoted the relevant part of the fact-finding panel’s report to prima facie hold Ganguly guilty of “unwelcome behaviour” and “unwelcome conduct of sexual nature”.
A serious question now arises over why the findings were made public although the Supreme Court was of the opinion that the matter was “not entertainable” by the administration of the court.
The fact that the intern was not associated with the court and her accusations pertained to Ganguly’s post-retirement assignment was well known. Despite the intern lawyer disclosing this, it is intriguing as to why Ganguly was summoned to testify or the panel had to record its findings on his guilt.
It is common law that when a judicial forum finds a dispute outside its jurisdiction, it asks the parties to approach the right forum. But in this case, the apex court went into the merits of the matter despite a concrete finding that the issue was “not entertainable”. It can be argued that the moment the panel noted that it could not exercise its administrative power, it should have proceeded to close the matter by advising parties to take the recourse available in law.
However, the panel indicted Ganguly of charges which are cognisable offences under the new law. The police are yet to lodge an FIR but the moot question is: have not the panel’s findings on merits of the case already prejudiced Ganguly’s defence? With three judges of the top court indicting him of serious charges, will it not influence the future course of inquiry or investigation against him by the police?
Ganguly today stands indicted by a forum that ultimately said the case was outside its ambit of administrative power and hence “no further follow-up action” was required. It will now be interesting to see which forum shall entertain a challenge to these findings if Ganguly appeals against his indictment.
Utkarsh is a special correspondent based in Delhi