‘Don’t list cases on women before Justice Vaidyanathan’

‘Don’t list cases on women before Justice Vaidyanathan’

The judge’s recent comments that Christian educational institutions were "highly unsafe" for the future of girl children have kicked up a major row.

Sixty-four senior advocates of the Madras High Court on Wednesday petitioned Chief Justice Vijay Tahilramani, asking her not to post any cases relating to Christian missionaries, their institutions and women before Justice S Vaidyanathan.

The judge’s recent comments that Christian educational institutions were "highly unsafe" for the future of girl children and that women “misuse” the laws that seek to protect them in order to “teach a lesson to men” have kicked up a major row.

The advocates, including senior counsels R Vaigai and Sudha Ramalingam, also asked the Chief Justice to counsel Justice Vaidyanathan to “suo motu” recall the judgement delivered by him on August 16 and delete three paragraphs that are against women.  

The representation by the advocates came a day after the judge agreed to delete the relevant paragraph on Christian institutions from the verdict that was delivered on a petition filed by a professor of the prestigious Madras Christian College (MCC) who is accused of sexually harassing his students during an academic trip to Karnataka early this year.

"There is a general feeling among parents of students, especially female students, that coeducational study in Christian institutions is highly unsafe for the future of their children," Justice Vaidyanathan had said in his order, a paragraph of which was withdrawn on Tuesday.

In their 7-page representation to the Chief Justice, the advocates pointed to “two sweeping observations” -- damning Christian educational institutions and women who complain of violence against them by Justice Vaidyanathan and complained that this was not the first time that the judge was making “unwanted” comments against women.

The representation sought deletion of two paragraphs in which the judge had made remarks against women unconnected to the case. “Certain laws which are in existence for easy access to women, led itself to easy misuse that women will find it hard to resist the temptation to teach a lesson to the male members and will file frivolous false cases,” the judge had said in his order.

He had also observed that it was the right time for the government to think of “suitable amendments” in those laws in order to prevent their misuses so as to safeguard the interest of the “innocent masculinity too”.

"It is, therefore, only fair and just that no litigation concerning the above issues (Christian missionaries, their institutions and women) be posted before Justice S Vaidyanathan and in the event such a matter comes up before him, he ought to recuse himself to preserve the appearance of impartiality of the judiciary,” the representation read.

Speaking to DH, senior counsel Vaigai said the judgement has led to horrendous consequences with some right-wing groups even asking for takeover of Christian institutions by Hindus.

“Though they have been deleted, the damage has been done. There was no occasion for him to make comments on women in this case. He seems to have deep-rooted suspicion against women,” she said and pointed to Justice Vaidyanathan’s controversial remarks on women while hearing a case relating to dress code in temples in Tamil Nadu.  

“How will a woman who faced violence feel confident before Justice Vaidyanathan if he has deep-rooted suspicion against them? We have petitioned the Chief Justice not to post such cases before him,” Vaigai further said, adding that the personal opinion of the Judge find its way into his judicial orders.

Justice Vaidyanathan had made the remarks against Christian institutions and women while refusing to quash a show-cause notice issued to Assistant Professor Samuel Tennyson following the findings of a Committee of Enquiry (Internal Complaints Committee) which probed the sexual harassment complaint against him, and the consequential second show-cause notice to him on May 24, 2019.