Another intern seeks redress mechanism
A former law intern who has made sexual harassment allegations against Justice Swatanter Kumar moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking inquiry against the retired judge.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, before whom the matter was mentioned for urgent hearing, agreed to ake up the case on January 15, 2014.
The intern has challenged the apex court’s December 5, 2013 full court resolution that ruled that it would not entertain complaints against its retired judges.
The petitioner also submitted that a proper forum be constituted to conduct inquiry in such cases and that her complaint be also looked into by the apex court like it was done in the case of sexual harassment allegations against Justice (retired) A.K. Ganguly.
The intern has made Justice Kumar, the Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Union of India parties in the case. She submitted that Justice Kumar was a sitting judge at the time of the alleged incident and the apex court must look into the complaint as per Vishaka guidelines.
Justice Kumar, who is at present heading the National Green Tribunal, has described the allegations as “incredulous and false” and “some kind of conspiracy.”
Leading advocates support intern
The intern’s demand for a Supreme Court probe into her allegations has been supported by Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, and leading lawyers Kamini Jaiswal, Harish Salve and Vrinda Grover. They have said the case concerning Justice Kumar was different from that of Justice Ganguly, who resigned as Chairman of West Bengal Human Rights Commission after sexual harassment allegations were levelled against him, also by an intern. Ms. Jaiswal said the court must set up a committee and conduct a thorough probe into the allegation as Justice Kumar was a sitting judge when the alleged incident took place in May 2011. Justice Ganguly’s alleged act of harassment took place after he had demitted office as a judge.
In the case of Justice Ganguly, the Supreme Court set up an internal committee of three judges which reported that the statement of the intern prima facie disclosed an unwelcome behaviour, verbal and non-verbal conduct of sexual nature by him. The court had also made it clear that it would not further entertain representations against former judges.
In her earlier complaint, the intern alleged that on one occasion Justice Kumar placed his hand on her lower back when she was stepping out of his office room. “I felt quite uncomfortable and disturbed but I brushed it aside.”
Subsequently, on another occasion, when she went to the judge’s room to apologise for a mistake she had committed, he told her not to worry and asked her to come over to his side of the desk.
“When I did, he put his right arm around me and kissed me on my left shoulder. I was quite taken aback and shocked, and I excused myself and hurriedly left his room.”