R M Lodha
R M Lodha

New Delhi/Gwalior :  The cracks in the pillar of judiciary, too, are showing. Higher echelons of judiciary were on Monday hit by allegations of sexual harassment of a senior woman judicial officer by a high court judge, which the Chief Justice of India R M Lodha has described as a “very serious issue” that would be dealt with “appropriately”.

 A woman additional district and sessions judge in Gwalior has quit her job after accusing a judge of the Gwalior bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court of sexual harassment. Among the allegations leveled against the High Court judge is that he asked the complainant to dance “to an item song” at his residence. She says that when she spurned his advances, she was transferred to a remote area as punishment, which constrained her to quit her job.

 The High Court judge, in turn, has rejected the charge and asserted that he is ready to face death penalty if the allegation is found to be true. ‘‘During my tenure, I have never contacted any subordinate women officers,” he has claimed. The justice has further asserted that the ADJ was transferred from Gwalior to Sidhi on administrative grounds. ‘‘After the orders were issued she phoned me and requested or cancellation of transfer. I told her that it is not possible for me to accommodate her because I am not in the transfer committee. She resigned for the sake of the study of her children”.

Sources close to the ADJ, however, claim that against the policy of the High Court, she was transferred to a rural area.  She was also transferred in the middle of academic session, which would have impacted the studies of her daughter who is in class XII.

Justice Lodha told a wire agency, “It is a very serious issue. All versions will have to be taken into account. Let me go through it.”

He said the matter has not come up before him yet but the registry has informed him that it has received emails on the issue. He would deal with the issue appropriately when the papers are placed before him as “the matter cannot be left like this”.

CJI to look into sexual harassment charge

The woman judge concerned has sent a nine-page representation to the CJI stating that the high court judge had some months ago started showing “more than normal interest” in her work and had gradually started making “coloured remarks” about her.

 The complaint narrates an incident in February this year at the marriage ceremony of a judicial officer where the high court judge had allegedly told her in the presence of her 16-year-old daughter that her work was excellent but “you are more beautiful than your work”.

 In December last year, the wife of a senior judicial officer had telephoned her to tell her that the judge was eager to see her perform a dance on an item song at his marriage anniversary, she said.

 The high court judge has sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court describing the allegations as “totally false” and expressing his willingness to face a probe by the CBI or any other agency. In an official statement, the Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice, meanwhile, has clarified that when the district judge sought an appointment with him, she had been told to file a “formal representation”, which she had not done so far.

Meanwhile, a group of women activists led by former additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising called a press conference in New Delhi to demand impeachment of the high court judge and a thorough investigation into the complaint.  The activists, who included advocate Vrinda Grover and historian Uma Chakraborty, demanded that the woman judge’s resignation should not be accepted and that the high court judge should be barred from work from Tuesday

They appealed for bi-partisan support from political parties in their campaign for impeachment against the high court judge. Input PTI

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