Law intern wants acknowledgment of truth from apex court

Law intern wants acknowledgment of truth from apex court

A young law graduate, who levelled sexual harassment charges against Justice Swatanter Kumar, has approached the Supreme Court seeking “an acknowledgment of truth” for her charges and establishment of a permanent mechanism to redress such complaints against all judicial officers.

Bringing the charges against Kumar, chairman of the National Green Tribunal, the woman, who graduated from West Bengal National University for Juridical Sciences in 2012, also sought a broader definition of workplace beyond court precincts to bring the judges’ residential office under its realm.

The petitioner, who agreed to intern with Kumar between May 16 and June 25, 2011, left midway on May 30 after she was allegedly subjected to “sexual harassment through unwelcome physical contact.”

“The petitioner was on more than one occasion subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace by the second respondent judge (Justice Kumar), including unwelcome physical contact and advances and suggestions of a quid pro quo arrangement,” she claimed.

Her petition submitted that a declaration, which acknowledged the truth that sexual harassment had occurred even in high places, would prevent other women from being harassed in future. The apex court, which took up her petition for hearing, decided to adjudicate on limited aspect of her plea regarding setting up of a mechanism to deal with sexual harassment complaints against judges, both sitting and retired.  

In an affidavit filed on December 2 with the chief justice of India, the petitioner gave a description of the incidents. As her affidavit was returned following a full-court decision on December 5 that no complaint would be entertained against retired judges, she decided to approach the apex court.

“The petitioner was unable to secure any redress for the violation of her bodily integrity and dignity at the workplace, as there was no redress mechanism constituted to address complaints of sexual harassment of a law intern by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, in accordance with the mandate of the Vishakha judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed on August 13, 1997,” she said.

Her petition, settled by advocate Vrinda Grover, also defended her right to approach the apex court directly for redressal of her complaint, instead of registering an FIR.

“It is unfair to relegate the petitioner only to a criminal prosecution when the judgment in the Vishaka case mandates all institutions to conduct an inquiry into a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace. 

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