Accused high court judge divested of admin powers

Accused high court judge divested of admin powers

The Supreme Court on Thursday divested a sitting Madhya Pradesh High Court judge of his administrative and supervisory powers in view of sexual harassment charges levelled against him by an additional district judge.

Acting on a petition filed by a woman judge who resigned in July this year, a bench of Justices J S Khehar and Arun Mishra also set aside a two-judge committee formed by the MP HC chief justice to look into her allegations.

The court requested the CJI himself to go into the charges or assign the role to the CJ of any other HC as the MP HC CJ had “traversed beyond his jurisdictional authority, under the in-house procedure.”

The woman judge accused the administrative judge of the HC of demanding sexual favours. She had alleged that he wanted her to “dance to an item number” after showing “more than normal interest” in her work. The judge in question, however, rejected the charges and offered to face death penalty if the allegations were found true. The woman judge had on July 15 resigned from her services almost a week after she was transferred out of Gwalior to Sidhi in the middle of her daughter’s academic year.

Going into the facts of the case, the court noted that the chief justice of the HC, by issuing a press statement denying the charges had rendered himself ineligible, for any role arising out of the complaint made by the petitioner.

The court referred the matter to the CJI in conformity with the in-house procedure for conducting an inquiry into allegations against a sitting HC judge.

In the 71-page verdict written by Justice Khehar, the bench directed the SC registry to put on apex court’s official website the “in-house procedure” evolved to deal with complaints against judges.

Referring to the “in-house procedure”, the bench said the role of the CJ of the HC, was limited to the first stage of the investigative process during which it is to be ascertained if a prima facie case is made out requiring a deeper probe; it is only in the second stage a three-member committee is to be set up. A committee comprising three Judges of the Supreme Court namely Justices S C Agrawal, A S Anand, S P Bharucha, and the then two senior-most Chief Justices of High Courts - Justices P S Misra and D P Mohapatra laid down the “in-house procedure”.

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