Former Supreme Court Judge and National Green Tribunal chairperson Justice (retd) Swatanter Kumar Thursday termed a former law intern’s sexual harassment allegations against him as “malicious,” “false” and the “result of a planned conspiracy”.
In his affidavit in the Supreme Court on Thursday, Kumar sought disposal of the writ petition by the former intern, raising objections over its maintainability.
The affidavit pointed out Kumar had already filed a civil suit in the Delhi High Court wherein the intern was made a party, and hence “the allegations made in the present petition are already sub-judice”.
“The answering respondent (Kumar) specifically denies all the allegations made by the petitioner in regard to the alleged incidents of sexual harassment. Such allegations are not only malicious but intended to malign the respondent,” stated the affidavit.
“In the humble submission of the answering respondent, the allegations, besides being false… are the result of a planned conspiracy,” it said.
The affidavit has been filed a day before the Supreme Court hears the case besides feasibility of having a permanent mechanism to deal with such accusations against sitting and retired judges.
On a permanent inquiry mechanism, Kumar, 66, said he believed the “correct legal position” was rightly enunciated in the Supreme Court’s Full Court Resolution of December 5, 2013.
The Full Court, while dealing with a sexual harassment complaint against another retired judge Justice A K Ganguly, had held that the “representations made against former judges of this court are not entertainable by the administration of the Supreme Court”.
A Bench led by Chief Justice P Sathasivam will on Friday take up the petition by the former intern.
Noting there was no mechanism to inquire into complaints of sexual harassment against judicial officers, sitting or retired judges, whether holding office or not, the court said it was inclined to consider these aspects.
It issued notices to Kumar, the Centre and the Secretary General of the apex court. It appointed senior advocates Fali S Nariman and P P Rao as amicus curiae. The court has requested Attorney General G E Vahanvati to assist.
Can’t have inquiry against Swatanter Kumar: SG to govt
The Solicitor General has told the government that an inquiry into “sexual harassment” against chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Justice (retd) Swatanter Kumar to remove him from the post cannot be conducted since the accusations pertained to his tenure as a Supreme Court judge.
SG Mohan Parasaran pointed out a similar case pending before Supreme Court wherein a PIL demanded removal of Justice K G Balakrishnan as NHRC chairperson in light of corruption allegations.
Parasaran says the Attorney General had given the opinion that “proved misbehaviour”, which is a ground for removal of NHRC chairperson, cannot bring in its ambit accusations relating to his conduct in a previous office.
The Attorney General had told the Law Ministry that functions of NHRC chairperson cannot be said to be an extension of judicial functions which Justice Balakrishnan discharged as CJI. This opinion, Parasaran writes, was accepted by the government.
While the MoEF was of the view that NGT Act and Rules will not apply to Kumar’s case on a similar basis, Parasaran maintains that provisions to NGT and Protection of Human Rights Act for removal of chairperson were in “pari-materia” (in consonance and hence to be read as one).
Incidentally, Parasaran leads the government in the PIL against Justice Balakrishnan and has already taken a stand that the former CJI’s conduct as a judge would not be relevant for sending a Presidential Reference for his removal. The SG said there was no controversy, or allegation or established misbehaviour on the part of Justice Balakrishnan at the time of his appointment as NHRC chief in June 2012.
It is hence manifest that the government would not be seen speaking in two voices against two different judges, particularly when both matters are to be heard by the Supreme Court in less than a week. While suo motu matters on Kumar’s case will come up for hearing on Friday, Justice Balakrishnan’s case has been slated for final hearing on Tuesday.
The ministry stated that since the matter was sub-judice and the MoEF was not going to file a response, there was no need for any opinion. When MoEF wrote to the SG, the same situation prevailed; the suo motu case had already been admitted and the ministry was not party to it.
Referring to a writ petition against Kumar in SC, MoEF had asked for SG’s counsel whether the petition would count as a “written complaint” under NGT Act and Rules, thereby enabling an inquiry against him for his removal.
The NGT Act empowers the Centre to remove tribunal chairperson if it is found he “abused his position to render his continuance in office prejudicial to public interest”. Proceedings to remove any member of the tribunal can only start after the government receives a “written complaint” related to his alleged misbehaviour.