CJI says such cases cannot be taken lightly

Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam on Tuesday constituted a three-judge committee headed by Justice R.M. Lodha to probe the allegation of a woman law intern that she was sexually harassed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court in 2012.

The committee, which includes Justices H.L. Dattu and Ranjana Desai, held a meeting and discussed the modalities of conducting the probe.

In the morning, advocate Manoharlal Sharma drew the attention of the CJI to a report published in an English newspaper under the title ‘intern alleges sexual harassment by Supreme Court judge’ and sought suo motu action.

The CJI told him that he had seen the report and was aware of it.

In the afternoon, Attorney General (AG) G.E. Vahanvati told a Bench comprising the CJI and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh that he was filing a writ petition based on the newspaper report, which was based on a blog written by the intern on November 9 in the Journal of Indian Law and Society .

The AG said: “sexual harassment is an extremely serious matter and the court must look into it. The report gave rise to speculation amongst the members of the Bar and the public and the truth of the allegations must be probed.”

The CJI told the AG, “As the head of the institution [judiciary], I am also concerned about it. I am anxious whether the statement is true or not. In the cases of sexual harassment, we cannot take it lightly. We are taking steps. The matter was also mentioned at 10.30 a.m. by Mr. Sharma and during the lunch recess, I discussed this with other judges. I have constituted a committee comprising three judges. The committee will go into the whole affair and find out the facts and prepare the report and from today [Tuesday] evening they are going to start their work.”

The CJI said, “First, the committee will find out the correctness of the statement. There are records about interns or advocates who are associated with judges.

Further entries are made about persons coming to the Supreme Court and the committee will go into all aspects. We have already framed guidelines.”

In his petition, the AG said: “allegations of sexual harassment are an extremely serious matter, more so when it concerns the highest judicial institution in the country and must receive prompt and immediate action. The matter should be properly investigated and the person who has made these allegations should be required to name the person and the matter be carried to its logical conclusion if the allegations are found to be correct. Equally if the allegations are unsubstantiated, then the law must take its course.”

The CJI told the AG that he was adjourning hearing on the petition by two weeks to await the outcome of the probe report.

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