'MeToo': Woman trial court judge seeks to be reinstated after failed allegations
The Supreme Court Monday granted four weeks to the registrar general of Madhya Pradesh High Court to reply to a plea by a woman judicial officer who is seeking reinstatement after having resigned following an inquiry into her allegations of sexual harassment against a sitting high court judge.
The high court judge was given a clean chit in December 2017 by a Rajya Sabha-appointed panel which probed the allegations.
A bench comprising justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer said the registrar general, as well as the state government, would file their responses on the plea within four weeks and the petitioner would file a rejoinder within two weeks thereafter.
The bench has listed the matter for hearing after six weeks.
On October 12, the court had issued notices to registrar general of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and state government seeking their response within six weeks.
Earlier, the counsel appearing for the petitioner had said that issue of reinstatement in service needs to be looked into by the top court and the high court's administrative order of January 11, 2017, should be set aside.
The petitioner has said that her fundamental rights granted under the Constitution for employment, to work and to carry on her profession needs to be secured.
She has sought that the administrative order of January 11, 2017, passed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, dismissing her application for reinstatement into the Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services, should be set aside.
The petition has said the high court had ignored the categorical finding in the report of the Judges Inquiry Committee dated December 15, 2017, terming the petitioner's resignation dated July 15, 2014, from her post of Additional District Judge as "unbearable circumstances having no other option".
It has said that her "resignation was neither voluntary nor conscious but was actuated by her illegal mid-term transfer which was punitive, irregular, unjustified, arbitrary and actuated by bias/mala fides – hence amounts to constructive dismissal which merits to be set aside being and the consequential relief of reinstatement with full back wages".
The plea has said that the Madhya Pradesh High Court had dismissed her application "without assigning any valid reasons for the rejection and in utter disregard of the findings of fact arrived by the Judges Inquiry Committee in its report".
It added that motion for removal under Article 217 read with Article 124 of the Constitution was instituted against the respondent judge in the Rajya Sabha on allegations of sexual harassment and consequent victimisation levelled by the Petitioner.
"After the inquiry proceedings conducted against the Respondent Judge on three charges relating to sexual harassment, consequent victimisation and transfer of the Petitioner, the Judges Inquiry Committee held that the charges were not proved and hence cleared him of all charges," the petition has said.
It said, however, the Judges Inquiry Committee took note of the arbitrary and sudden transfer of the Petitioner from Gwalior to Sidhi which was done "in complete violation of the transfer policy, not on administrative exigencies and concluded that the transfer of the petitioner was in violation of the transfer Policy - punitive, irregular, unjustified, arbitrary and hurried".
The woman in her plea added that the judges' inquiry committee had opined that "the petitioner be reinstated in service since her resignation was tendered under coercion".
A motion of impeachment was admitted against the high court judge after 58 members of the Rajya Sabha supported the woman's case.
The report of the panel comprising Supreme Court judge R Bhanumathi, Justice Manjula Chellur (then Bombay High Court judge) and jurist K K Venugopal (now Attorney General for India) had given a clean chit to the high court judge was tabled before the Rajya Sabha on December 15, 2017.
The panel was set up in April 2015 by the Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari after admitting a motion supported by 58 members to impeach the judge.
The woman, in her plea, has claimed that she had practised as an advocate in various courts including the Supreme Court, the High Court, Tribunals for 15 years before she qualified in the Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services on March 23, 2011, and thereafter was selected as the 2nd Additional Judge to 1st Additional District and Sessions Judge, Gwalior on August 1, 2011.
She said, after completing her training under the 1st Additional District & Sessions Judge, Gwalior, she was appointed as the VIIIth Additional District and Sessions Judge Gwalior October 1, 2012.
On July 7, 2014, she was transferred to Sidhi from Gwalior which she termed as "illegal", "unjust" and "punitive transfer" as there was no vacancy in Sidhi nor any administrative exigencies.
(With inputs from agencies.)