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Allegations against judges due for promotion have become a regular phenomenon, CJI Bobde says

A bench led by CJI S.A. Bobde was hearing a petition by a district judge from Madhya Pradesh who had been accused of sexual harassment.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday said that levelling allegations at a judge, who was going to be promoted or elevated, had become a “regular phenomenon” nowadays.

A bench led by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde spoke of the “trend” while it was hearing a petition filed by a district judge from Madhya Pradesh against sexual harassment charges levelled against him.

In 2018, a female civil judge had accused the district judge of sexual harassment and had addressed her complaint to the Madhya Pradesh High Court. After several inquiries, the high court indicted the judge and had even issued a show-cause notice to him in November last year, the final outcome of which is still awaited.

“It is a regular phenomenon in our system that on the verge of something happening, all kinds of things start happening. Complaints are filed, news items appear and suddenly people remember what a bad man he is,” said Chief Justice Bobde, issuing notice to the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The bench also stayed the disciplinary proceedings against the judge.

Among other things, in his petition, the judge had assailed the manner in which the inquiry was conducted. He claimed that it was was arbitrary, illegal and in violation of the law and principles of natural justice.

Also read: Arun Mishra — SC judge who backed Bar-Bench cordiality, but was part of bitter confrontations

‘Allegations surfaced when he was due for elevation’

Senior Advocate R. Balasubramanium, representing the district judge, defended his client and pointed to his unblemished service of 32 years.

“There has never been any accusation against him,” he told the bench.

The judge, he added, was being considered for elevation to the High Court when the complaint surfaced and the inquiry was initiated.

Now, on the brink of his retirement, the judge has been made to face sheer embarrassment, the senior counsel submitted. The district judge is to retire at the end of this year.

CJI Bobde agreed with Balasubramanium’s contention and observed verbally that it has become a practice to level accusations when a judge is about to be promoted.

“What to do? This has become a trend,” he said, granting interim relief to the district judge.

Also read: After 3-year row over sexual harassment charge, govt clears Karnataka judge elevation to HC

Four inquiries held against the judge

According to the petitioner, in March 2018, the female judge had deliberately addressed her complaint to the High Court’s Registrar for Vigilance, bypassing the standing committee constituted to deal with matters pertaining to sexual harassment at workplace.

The complaint was then forwarded to the district judge in Dewas for a fact-finding inquiry, despite there being no provision for the same under service rules.

The inquiry was completed within 10 days and placed before the High Court’s Administrative Committee in May 2018.

Thereafter, three more inquiries were held against the judge that culminated with the High Court’s Gender Sensitization and Internal Committee ruling against him on 30 April 2019.

An application for conciliation filed by the complainant was also rejected by the panel, who, instead, recommended action against the complainant for withholding evidence.

In November 2019, a show cause notice was issued to the judge by the High Court Registrar for Vigilance.

The district judge replied to this and the final outcome of the notice is still awaited.

However, in May this year, the Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice’s office directed the judge to furnish copies of his judgments.

This, the petitioner claimed, was because he was being considered for elevation.

Also read: Supreme Court to begin physical hearing of cases in limited manner, releases SOP


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