SC agrees to hear petition against Justice Kumar

Ex-intern case to be heard on Wednesday

SC agrees to hear petition against Justice Kumar

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a petition by a former law intern who sought an inquiry into alleged “sexual misconduct and advances” by former apex court judge Swatanter Kumar, whom she worked for and who currently chairs the National Green Tribunal.

A bench presided over by Chief Justice P Sathasivam listed the case for Wednesday after senior advocate Harish Salve asked for an urgent hearing on her behalf.

The petition, filed in the name of Ms ‘X’ to protect the former intern’s identity, lists Justice Kumar, the SC Secretary-General and the Union government as respondents. She said Justice Kumar was a sitting judge when the incident happened in May 2011, and so the apex court must look into the complaint as per Vishaka guidelines, issued by the court itself.

She filed the petition after the apex court refused to entertain her complaint against Justice Kumar, citing its December 5 full-court resolution, wherein it was decided that complaints against its retired judges would not be entertained. Her plea wants the resolution quashed and the creation of a complaints forum, akin to the one created in the A K Ganguly case. She urged the court to form a panel headed by a woman, with an external member.

“The Vishaka judgment mandates that this court set up a mechanism for addressing complaints regarding acts of sexual harassment in the Supreme Court or at the residence of judges or any other location where women are required to work,” she submitted, seeking that workplace be given wider interpretation.

The recently formed SC panel to hear complaints of sexual harassment at workplace limited its scope to the court’s precincts. In the A K Ganguly case, the alleged incident took place in a five-star hotel. In the instant case, the sexual advances allegedly took place at Justice Kumar’s home office.

The woman’s petition said, “The workplace must be broadly defined, moving beyond the precincts of the court and including any place visited by the lawyers, law students or any other women arising out of or during the course of work, including transportation provided by the court for undertaking any journey in connection with employment."

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