Fair-play ordered in the Madhya Pradesh High Court Sexual Harassment case

Supreme Court: In a writ petition filed by Additional District and Sessions judge of Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services casting accusations of sexual harassment against a sitting judge of Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Court directed the Chief Justice of the said High Court to refrain himself from the “in-house proceedings”, and easing off accused judge of the administrative duties for fair and unbiased proceedings while also laying down detailed seven-step procedure for in-house proceedings against misconduct of a High Court judge.

In the present case, the petitioner was allegedly made a victim of sexual harassment by a High Court judge. When not giving to his questionable advances, she was harassed by him and court officials served a transfer order to a remote district in between the year in response to which she tendered her resignation. On revealing of this harassment to letters addressed to President of India, Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court a “in-house proceeding” was constituted which according to her was not formed and worked according to guidelines of the court laid down in C. Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee, (1995) 5 SCC 457.

The bench headed by Jagdish Singh Khehar and Arun Mishra, JJ.,taking serious note of the matter accepted the arguments of the counsel of the petitioner. The Court held that the committee appointed by the MP High Court Chief Justice for in house proceeding comprising of colleague judges of the accused judge cannot be expected to proceed without bias to either parties. The chief justice was not right in constituting a committee which was meant to investigate the matter in depth when he was required to facilitate prima facie fact finding committee only, with respect to the guidelines in Ravichandran Iyer case. It also ordered to divest the accused judge of his administrative and supervisory functions so as to remove apprehensions of his influencing witnesses for ensuring fair and just investigation which would be further done in the supervision of chief justice of India de novo in a manner he may deem fit. Taking note of the importance of the matter and its wide implication the court further elaborated on the guidelines for such investigation laid down in Ravichandran Iyer case in a seven step procedure and directed the supreme court registry to display it on court’s website for information in public domain. Additional District and Sessions Judge ‘X’ v. Registrar General, High Court of Madhya Pradesh, 2014 SCC OnLine SC 1025, dated 18.12.2014

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