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Suspended Delhi judge faces enquiry over explicit video. Police say ‘yet to receive complaint’

Enquiry ordered by Chief Justice of Delhi HC into video of judge’s purported encounter with stenographer. Lawyers say penal consequences could arise if act found to be non-consensual.

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New Delhi: The Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court has initiated an enquiry against a lower-court judge’s alleged sexual misconduct days after a sexually-explicit video of the judge’s purported encounter with his stenographer was leaked online, ThePrint has learnt.

Delhi HC Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma Wednesday suspended judge Jitendra Kumar Mishra with immediate effect, claim sources.

A bench of the HC, acting on a request by the woman stenographer, also ordered social media to block the circulation of the video in an order late Wednesday. But the police are yet to initiate a criminal investigation to determine if a crime was committed.

“The judiciary is conducting an enquiry into the matter. We are yet to receive any complaint from the victim or any reference,” a senior police officer, who wished to not be named, told ThePrint.

Although the police have the power to take suo motu cognizance to register a case, in most cases, it is registered only if the victim approaches the police with a complaint, explained a second senior officer, adding that at times, the police also approach the victim to inquire if she wants to file an official complaint. “In this case, it is unclear if the act was consensual or forced. An enquiry is being carried out [by the Delhi HC] and further action will be taken accordingly,” the officer said.

The video, which ThePrint has accessed, appears to show the stenographer resisting Mishra’s advances repeatedly.

“Bearing in mind the sexually-explicit nature of the contents of the video and taking into consideration the imminent, grave, irreparable harm that is likely to be caused to the privacy rights of the plaintiff, an ad interim ex parte injunction is clearly warranted,” read the court order, a copy of which is with ThePrint.

“Further sharing, distribution, forwarding or posting of the offending video is restrained forthwith,” it added.

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‘Not immune to arrest because he is a judge’

Speaking to ThePrint, senior advocate Geeta Luthra explained that “misconduct within the court premises” is arguably the foremost issue with the leaked video. The high court, she said, will look into it on the judicial side or the administrative side, and there will be an enquiry.

“Penal consequences could also arise if a complaint is made and if the person says that it is non-consensual,” she added.

As for initiation of a criminal offence against the judge, Luthra explained: “You can’t, at first blush, say whether it is consensual or not…But normally you would require the complainant to come forward, because even though these are cognizable offences and therefore, cognizance can be taken, normally, you would expect someone, who has a locus, to make a complaint.”

She, however, asserted that Mishra “is not immune just because he is a judge”, adding, “All that is required is a sanction. So the sanction can come under Section 197 and it can come at any time…This is not in the course of his judicial functions, and in any case, from the misconduct viewpoint, you could say that you cannot misuse your custodial position of authority. So all those questions of misconduct and sexual harassment at the workplace would arise.”

Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) bars courts from taking cognizance of any offence against any person who is or was a judge or a magistrate or a public servant when they stand “accused of any offence alleged to have been committed by him while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty”.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave concurred with Luthra’s legal assessment, pointing out that a sanction under Section 197 would be enough for prosecution. But a sanction will not be needed for investigation if a complaint is filed by the woman.

“He (Mishra) should be given a show cause notice and be summarily dismissed. With this evidence, he has no explanation…. Strictest action should be taken and the high court must act swiftly and set an example,” he told ThePrint. 

Senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, meanwhile, opined that a sanction might not even be needed since the allegations did not pertain to the judge’s official duties. “There is no bar against initiating proceedings against the judge, in accordance with law…This is not a part of his duties as a judge, so therefore, I think no sanction is required under Section 197,” he explained.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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