The Supreme Court suo motu decided Tuesday to launch an inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations against one of its retired judges and formed a three-judge panel to ascertain the veracity of the accusation made by a young lawyer.
The lawyer, in a blog she wrote on November 6 for the Journal of Indian Law and Society, and later in an interview to web site Legally India, had alleged that she was sexually harassed in December by a Supreme Court judge with whom she was interning. The woman, who graduated from Kolkata’s National University of Juridical Sciences this year, did not name the judge but said he “retired recently”.
“We are anxious to see if the statements she has made are correct. Being the head of the institution, I consulted my fellow judges during lunch time and have set up a three-member committee of judges to go into these issues,” Chief Justice P Sathasivam told Attorney General G E Vahanvati.
Vahanvati had moved the court with a petition that sought an in-depth inquiry into the accusations levelled by the woman and her subsequent statements on the website and in The Times of India. He emphasised that a complaint of sexual harassment must be taken seriously. The AG also requested the apex court to take some steps so that the damning speculations are put to rest.
The CJI told the AG that the issue had been lingering in his mind from 10.30 in the morning when lawyer M L Sharma mentioned the matter and sought the court’s indulgence.
“We have formed a committee of Justices R M Lodha, H L Dattu and Ranjana Desai to go into these aspects and prepare a report. We will take action on the basis of the report. The committee starts working from today in the evening and they are going to issue notices to all the persons concerned,” said Sathasivam.
The CJI pointed out that the veracity of the allegations required to be ascertained first and that records relating to interns or advocates associated with judges and their entry to court or the chambers of judges will also be examined.
“In cases of sexual harassment, we cannot take it lightly. We are taking steps,” the CJI said, noting that guidelines had been framed and notified in the gazette to deal with issues of sexual harassment in the apex court.
Sathasivam, however, lamented that