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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Former woman judge seeks reinstatement, Madhya Pradesh HC opposes move in SC

Appearing for MP HC, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a Supreme Court bench that “if the petitioner’s argument that transfer was due to a particular judge is to be accepted, it will have to inevitably accepted that the Chief Justice (of HC) and other judges were so amenable and pliable that one judge could convince them to transfer”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: January 28, 2022 7:56:23 am
The hearing will resume on February 1. HC had earlier declined to reinstate the former judicial officer.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Thursday opposed the contentions of a fomer woman judicial officer that she was forced to put in her papers, as she was transferred after raising sexual harrassment allegations against one of its judges.

Appearing for HC, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a Supreme Court bench that “if the petitioner’s argument that transfer was due to a particular judge is to be accepted, it will have to inevitably accepted that the Chief Justice (of MP HC) and other judges were so amenable and pliable that one judge could convince them to transfer”.

Mehta pointed out that a judges’ inquiry committee — comprising former SC judge, Justice R Bhanumathi; Justice Manjula Chellur, who was then with Bombay HC; and senior advocate K K Venugopal, currently the Attorney General — had in its report tabled in Rajya Sabha in December 2017 cleared the HC judge of sexual harrassment allegations.

“If the committee’s findings are seen…two findings have been found to be non existent — sexual harassment allegations and hostile work environment,” Mehta told a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai. He said sitting judges had deposed in the matter and evidence examined.

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“Sexual harassment against any woman is very serious issue; the allegation not being found right is also a serious issue,” he said.

Mehta pointed out that “an elaborate exercise was undertaken by the committee and all aspects were taken into account. The committee was aware that the allegation made was not a contemporaneous one and was belated”.

The S-G said that thus her contention that she was under such pressure due to sexual harassment, which has been raised before the SC after four years, “wasn’t proved”.

Countering the arguments of senior advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared for the former woman judge, Mehta said that “my friend can succeed only if it is proven that there was a hostile work environment for her, or she was compelled to resign”.

He said that the case will have “important implications in the administration of judiciary at the district level”, and the transfer order which could have been challenged on grounds raised now was not challenged.

Mehta said that any transfer, if looked at a microscopic level, can be found to suffer from some problem. “Your Lordships aren’t examining the transfer, but only if it was a good enough reason so as to construe resignation as coercive”, he submitted.

Jaising, while stating that “it is true she rendered resignation and the state accepted it”, however added that “my argument is, this resignation was coerce, as she was compelled to resign, to choose between her duties towards her daughter and her career as a working woman”.

She contended that the resignation wasn’t one voluntarily given but was coerced and hence is a deemed dismissal. “She is entitled to be reinstated”.

Jaising told the bench that the transfer was contrary to transfer policy. “Her representation to let her stay till time her daughter completes (class) 12th was rejected. Her second representation to at least transfer her from Class A to B city, where there were colleges for her daughter, was rejected…. After the second application was rejected, out of sheer frustration of choosing between her duties as a mother and a judicial officer, she had to retire,” Jaising contended.

She said the petitioner had not invited a finding from the apex court whether there was any sexual harassment but only that the transfer being one of coercion, she should be reinstated.

Tating she is “concerned about the judicial system”, Jaising said, “But I am also concerned about the position of women in the Judiciary. It’s painful to see sexual harassment in judiciary and without a mechanism to address it. I would request the court to put in a place a mechanism…this is not the first case of woman judicial officer facing sexual harassment.”

The hearing remained inconclusive and will resume on February 1.

The HC had earlier declined to reinstate the former woman judicial officer saying an “amicable solution of the matter is not possible”.

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