SC committee to probe sexual harassment claims against ex-judge

In light of allegations of sexual harassment made by a lawyer against a former Supreme Court judge, the apex court has instituted a three judge committee to probe the incident.

The committee formed by the apex court will consist of three senior judges --
RM Lodha, HL Dattu and Ranjana P Desai — and will start work from today evening.

A bench of the Chief Justice of India, Justice Gogoi and Justice Shiv Kirti heard the petition filed by the Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati asking the court to look into the incident of sexual harassment.

The bench of the apex court expressed concern over the reports.

 SC committee to probe sexual harassment claims against ex-judge

Representational image. AFP

"As the head of the institution, I am also concerned about the allegation and anxious whether the statement is true or not," Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam said.

The committee will go into the whole affair and find out the facts and prepare the report, he said.

We are taking steps and in cases of sexual harassment, we cannot take it lightly, the Chief Justice said.

The Supreme Court also pulled up the Sexual Harassment Committee in the SC which was constituted last month. The Advocate Bar Association and Clerks Association has still not nominated members for the sexual harassment committee of the court.

The court appreciated the complaint which was brought up by the Advocate General, who filed a petition on the issue. The bench adjourned the petition for two weeks.

The committee of three judges appointed by the court will submit its report on the incident within two weeks, when the AG's petition will come up for hearing again.

The Hindustan Times reported that Attorney General GE Vahanvati on Tuesday mentioned the sexual harassment matter before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam and said the apex court should take it up seriously.

The blog post by a woman lawyer accused of a retired Supreme Court judge of sexually harassing her while she was an intern with him.

The blog post by Stella James, who graduated from Kolkata’s National University of Juridical Sciences, wrote that the incident took place last December, during the time of the Delhi gang-rape protests.

She wrote in her blog, "In Delhi at that time, interning during the winter vacations of my final year in University, I dodged police barricades and fatigue to go to the assistance of a highly reputed, recently retired Supreme Court judge whom I was working under during my penultimate semester. For my supposed diligence, I was rewarded with sexual assault (not physically injurious, but nevertheless violating) from a man old enough to be my grandfather. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that long after I’d left the room, the memory remained, in fact, still remains, with me.

She wrote that while she "bore no real ill-will towards the man," she felt that she had a responsibility to speak about the incident to ensure that other girls don’t face a similar problem.

James, who has also been interviewed by LegallyIndia website, after she wrote the blog post and she told the website that even if she wanted to take legal recourse, it would probably not have been possible.

"There were no other witnesses, it was just me. It was a hotel room, [people] saw me walking in voluntarily, saw me walking out very calmly. I didn’t even walk out [with] fear. At that moment I felt I needed to walk out very calmly. I never mentioned anything the same day to anybody,” she told LegallyIndia.

James also told the website that the Supreme Court’s recently started sexual harassment cell was unlikely to improve matters.

"It is often one person’s word against another person’s word, and a lot of people tend not to take the word of a young lawyer against a senior advocate who’s made his reputation for 10 to 15 years," she said.

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Updated Date: Nov 12, 2013 17:19:46 IST