‘To Flirt With A Junior Not An Acceptable Conduct For A Judge’ : Supreme Court To MP Judge Facing Disciplinary Proceedings For Sexual Harassment

first_imgTop Stories’To Flirt With A Junior Not An Acceptable Conduct For A Judge’ : Supreme Court To MP Judge Facing Disciplinary Proceedings For Sexual Harassment LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK16 Feb 2021 12:59 AMShare This – xThe Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed reluctance to entertain a petition filed by a former District Judge from Madhya Pradesh challenging the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the MP High Court over the sexual harassment allegations made by a junior judicial officer.Appearing for the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Senior Advocate Ravindra Srivastava read out before a bench headed by the…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginThe Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed reluctance to entertain a petition filed by a former District Judge from Madhya Pradesh challenging the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the MP High Court over the sexual harassment allegations made by a junior judicial officer.Appearing for the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Senior Advocate Ravindra Srivastava read out before a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India the WhatsApp messages sent by the petitioner to the complainant lady officer.”He is a senior judicial officer. His conduct should have been more appropriate while dealing with a lady officer junior to him”, Srivastava submitted before the bench.Agreeing with this, the CJI orally said, “To flirt with a junior official is not an acceptable conduct for a judge”.”Yes, if that is permitted, the atmosphere will be too in-conducive for judicial work”, the HC’s lawyer concurred with the CJI’s observation.The petitioner’s counsel, Senior Advocate R Balasubramanium, submitted before the bench that the lady officer has withdrawn her complaint under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, and therefore the disciplinary proceedings by the High Court are not maintainable.The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramaninan, observed that the woman might have withdrawn the complaint “because of some embarrassment” and that will not preclude the High Court from initiating separate departmental proceedings on its own.Explaining the position of the High Court, Srivastava submitted :”The High Court has taken suo moto action. She may not want any action under Sexual Harassment Act. But as far as the High Court is concerned, it is still under liberty, and it has a duty, to take cognizance of the conduct. That is a separate matter”.Srivastava added that the complainant produced the WhatsApp messages before a District Judge, who was the enquiry officer, and the petitioner admitted those messages as well.”Petitioner admits and says he was flirting with the lady. What kind of judicial officer is this? We don’t understand”, Srivastava exclaimed.He further submitted that the High Court is proceeding with the matter even though the petitioner has retired from service as it wanted to “send a strong message”. The bench was also told that charge-sheet has been filed in the departmental proceedings, which the petitioner has not chosen to challenge.The petitioner’s counsel argued that the enquiry report suffered from “fundamental flaws” as it was not prepared following the procedure under the POSH Act 2013. Therefore, the chargesheet which flows from such an enquiry report is not sustainable in law, he continued.Disagreeing with this, the CJI said that the enquiry report, even if assumed to be invalid in law, can be a piece of evidence in departmental proceedings.”This matter before the Gender Sensitization Committee has come to an end with the lady refusing to participate. Now HC wants to proceed.It is duty bound to proceed also, in a departmental enquiry. Is there any law which can prevent the HC from proceeding with enquiry?. Right to departmental enquiry is an inherent right of the employer even if there is no provision in the service law”, the CJI said.”Every misdemeanor may not constitute a misconduct. I might have gone overboard. It is a private conversation, after all”, the petitioner’s counsel responded.”Yes, we are conscious of the fact that it is a private conversation. You did not shame her in public. That you should not have had that conversation is a different matter. But today we are concerned with the departmental enquiry”, the CJI said.”We find the WhatsApp messages quite offensive and improper”, the CJI continued.The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the complaint was made when his name was about to be considered for elevation as a HC judge.In response, the CJI said that though it is a ‘ubiquitous’ phenomenon to raise complaints against a man when he is about to get a position, there cannot be any generalization and each case has to be seen on its own merits.Ultimately, the bench suggested the petitioner’s counsel to withdraw the petition and contest the disciplinary proceedings.”We are likely to make some sweeping observations. We would recommend you to withdraw it and contest the proceeding”, the CJI suggested.The counsel sought a week’s adjournment to consult his client regarding the withdrawal of the petition. Accordingly, the bench posted the matter next week.In September 2020, the SC had stayed the disciplinary proceedings, while issuing notice on the petition. Next Storylast_img read more