April 16, 2015 1:18:34 am
A month after 58 MPs submitted a petition to Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairperson Hamid Ansari seeking impeachment of Justice S K Gangele of the Madhya Pradesh High Court over allegations of sexual harassment, Ansari is learnt to have constituted a three-member committee to probe the charges. Justice Gangele is accused of sexually harassing a former Additional District and Sessions judge in Gwalior.
The woman judge had resigned last year, saying she had to do so to protect her “dignity, womanhood and self-esteem”. She is now serving in Jabalpur.
Sources told The Indian Express that the committee will be headed by Supreme Court Judge Vikramjit Sen, and will include Calcutta High Court (HC) Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and eminent lawyer K K Venugopal.
Chief Justice of India H L Dattu had written to Ansari earlier this month, recommending names for the panel. In his letter, the CJI had also pointed out that an in-house committee of judges constituted by him was already conducting a “deeper” inquiry into the matter. The members of the in-house committee are Allahabad HC Chief Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Delhi HC Chief Justice G Rohini and Rajasthan HC Judge Ajay Rastogi. This committee is learnt to have already examined Justice Gangele.
It is learnt that Justice Gangele had also sent a detailed letter to Ansari, questioning the move to initiate impeachment proceedings against him. He is learnt to have asserted that there was no such things as impeachment in the Constitution.
However, Ansari is learnt to have gone by the advice of legal experts, who pointed out that as per the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, once a complaint against a judge is presented by way of a resolution signed either by 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha members, the presiding officer has to constitute a three-member committee comprising two judges and a jurist to probe the complaint and determine if it is a case fit for initiating the process of impeachment.
In her complaint sent in August last year to the then CJI and several Supreme Court judges, the woman judge had alleged that Justice Gangele sent her a message through the district court registrar to “perform dance on an item song” at a function at his residence. She said she avoided the function, but the next day, Justice Gangele allegedly told her that “he missed the opportunity of viewing a sexy and beautiful figure dancing on the floor”.
With the setting up the latest panel, Ansari has created a record of sorts — ordering a probe against three HC judges for impeachment. Two judges — Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta HC and Sikkim HC Chief Justice P D Dinakaran — resigned while the process of impeaching them was still on.
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