The Supreme Court on Friday granted amici curiae Fali Nariman and P.P. Rao time till March 26 to file their suggestions on establishing a permanent mechanism to enquire into complaints of sexual harassment against all judicial officers, sitting or retired judges, irrespective of whether they were holding office or not at the time of the alleged offence.
A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing the writ petition filed by a law intern who has accused Justice Swatanter Kumar of sexually harassing her. The Bench granted time taking note of the fact that only Justice Kumar, now National Green Tribunal Chairperson, had filed his response to the petition.
The CJI told Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati and other senior counsel that the matter would be heard by a three-judge Bench on March 26. All counsel should file their replies by then.
Justice Kumar, in his reply, said the intern’s allegations “are not only malicious but are intended to malign his image. The allegations, besides being false to the knowledge of the maker, are the result of a planned conspiracy against him.”
On a permanent mechanism to inquire into sexual harassment complaints, Justice Kumar said it was up to the court’s discretion and the guidance of the amici curiae, though he believed that the correct legal position was contained in the Full Court Resolution dated December 5, 2013 (when the court decided not to entertain complaints against retired apex court judges).
The intern alleged that she suffered sexual harassment at the hands of Justice Kumar in May 2011,when he was a Supreme Court judge.
She said the ‘workplace’ must be broadly defined, moving beyond the precincts of the court and including any place visited by the lawyer, law students or any other women arising out of or during the course of work, including transportation provided by the court for undertaking any journey in connection with employment.
She challenged the constitutionality, legality and legitimacy of the December 5, 2013 resolution.