New Delhi, February 26
The Supreme Court on Friday said it cannot allow sexual harassment cases to be swept under the carpet.
The top court made this observation during a hearing of a plea by a former district judge from Madhya Pradesh challenging disciplinary proceedings against him initiated by the Madhya Pradesh High Court following sexual harassment allegations made by a junior judicial officer.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and also comprising Justice AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said: "We cannot allow sexual harassment cases to be swept under the carpet like this."
The Bench asked the judge to withdraw the petition challenging the disciplinary proceedings.
The Chief Justice told the petitioner's counsel, senior advocate R Balasubramanian, "You are walking on a very thin line you can fall any time. You may have a chance in the inquiry you may acquit. But today as the matter stands you are already convicted."
After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court said it will pass a short order dealing with petitioner's contention and then dismiss the petition. However, petitioner's counsel asked the court to allow him to withdraw the petition with the liberty to participate in the inquiry.
On February 16, the Supreme Court made sharp observations on the conduct of a district judge from Madhya Pradesh, who sent offensive and inappropriate messages to a junior officer and justified this conduct as mere "flirting".
Senior advocate Ravindra Shrivastava along with advocate Arjun Garg, representing Madhya Pradesh High Court, read out several WhatsApp messages sent by the District Judge to junior lady officer. Shrivastava said he is a senior judicial officer; hence his conduct should have been more appropriate with the lady officer.
The top court had noted: "WhatsApp messages are quite offensive and improper. For a judge this conduct with junior officer-not acceptable." The bench queried that if they have some understanding with each other is it good to go ahead? However, the bench added that the petitioner has already learnt a lesson and pointed at a settlement between the parties.
Shrivastava replied that the woman officer wanted a settlement, but the High Court Committee probing this matter did not accept it.
He added the petitioner has admitted that he was flirting with the lady. "What kind of judicial officer is this? We don't understand," added Shrivastava. At this stage, the Chief Justice said it agrees with Shrivastava's submissions.
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