A day before the Supreme Court is to hear a petition filed by a law intern alleging that she was sexually harassed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Swatanter Kumar, Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran informed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that removal proceedings cannot be initiated against Justice Kumar.
A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam had issued a notice on the petition filed by the intern, seeking a probe into the allegations against Justice Kumar, a former Supreme Court judge.
Responding to the notice, Justice Kumar informed the court that the allegations of sexual harassment made by the law intern “are not only malicious but are intended to malign his image.”
Justice Kumar, while questioning the maintainability of the writ petition, said: “The allegations, besides being false to the knowledge of the maker, are the result of a planned conspiracy against him.”
The NGT Act empowers the MoEF to remove Justice Kumar from the post of chairperson if it is found after an enquiry that he had abused his position so as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to public interest. It was in this context the opinion of the Solicitor-General was sought whether such removal proceedings could be initiated against him.
However, Mr. Parasaran opined that since the allegations levelled by the intern pertained to when Justice Kumar was a sitting judge of the apex court, the provisions of the NGT Act would not be applicable to him.
He said the office of NGT Chairperson could not be said to be an elongation of the office of Supreme Court judge and hence no such proceedings could be initiated.
He cited the case of the former Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, against whom a petition was pending in the Supreme Court seeking removal proceedings under the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act.
Mr. Parasaran said the government had taken the same stand that whatever the acts of commission and omission done during the office of the CJI could not be construed as misconduct during the subsequent office and the provisions of the Human Rights Act would not apply.