Justice A.K. Ganguly’s holding on to his position as the Chairperson of the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission after being accused by a law intern of improper sexual advances may indicate a justified concern about his hard-earned reputation. Yet, it is clear he has also displayed a petulant unwillingness to recognise that his continuance does great damage to the institutional integrity of his office. After a three-member committee of the Supreme Court said it was of the considered view that the intern’s statement prima facie disclosed “unwelcome verbal/non-verbal conduct of sexual nature” on his part, the honourable thing for him to do must have been to stay away from public office. Yet, even after the gist of the committee’s report was made public by the Chief Justice of India, and after the intern’s affidavit was out in the public domain, presenting in embarrassing detail what had transpired in a hotel in New Delhi on December 24, 2012, Mr. Ganguly has been refusing to quit. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking his removal from the post and the Attorney General is preparing the terms for a reference to the Supreme Court, as is required for the removal of the chairperson of a State human rights commission.
Mr. Ganguly will indeed get an opportunity to contest the allegation, but the process may lead to the appointment of an enquiry committee. He has to ask himself whether he wants to go through a formal inquiry at all. One would have thought he would spare himself such ignominy. It has now come to light that even before the three-member panel, while denying the allegations, he advanced a technical defence, saying the current sexual harassment law had been enacted only after the incident, and his alleged conduct did not constitute an offence at that time. When Chief Justice P. Sathasivam decided that no further follow-up action was required by the Supreme Court on the intern’s allegation, after finding that she was not on its rolls and the Judge concerned had retired before the incident, there was an impression that there would be no resolute action to pursue the case. The Supreme Court committee’s finding was in itself a clear moral indictment of Justice Ganguly and makes his continuation in the post untenable. The Chief Justice also made it clear that Justice Ganguly had no special immunity from normal investigative processes. The Supreme Court’s decision to disclose the preliminary finding, embarrassing as it might have been to Justice Ganguly, was a welcome instance of transparency in its functioning. One hopes that Justice Ganguly will not be so unwise as to invite by his intransigence a formal order dismissing him for proven misconduct.