Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A Supreme Court-appointed one-man panel, holding inquiry into allegations of “larger conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, has completed the inquiry and is likely to submit the report by mid September.

Sources said Tuesday that Justice A K Patnaik, a retired Supreme Court judge who was appointed by the Supreme Court, examined advocate Utsav Singh Bains, who had made several allegations including fixing of benches in the Supreme Court.

“The affidavit filed by Bains and other documents were examined by the panel. Now, the panel will complete the report and submit it to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover by second week of September,”

Justice Patnaik examined the lawyer from 11 am to 1 pm and his statement was recorded.

The Court had on April 25 constituted the panel to hold inquiry into the allegations of Bains and had asked the Directors of CBI and Intelligence Bureau (IB) as also the Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with Justice Patnaik as and when required by him.

A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ  had said that on the completion of inquiry, Justice Patnaik will file a report in a sealed cover before the court after which the matter will be heard again.

The bench, however, clarified that the outcome of the inquiry shall not affect the in-house procedure/inquiry which is pending in the administrative side in any manner whatsoever. It said,

“this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India. This is with respect to the contents of the affidavits, whether the affidavits are correct or not.”

On May 6, CJI had got the clean chit from the Supreme Court’s In-House Inquiry Committee which “found no substance” in the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him. The In-House Inquiry Committee was headed by Justice S A Bobde and comprised of two woman judges of the apex court — Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.

While hearing claims made by Bains that there was a “larger conspiracy” to frame the CJI, the Court had said that there is systematic attempt/game against the Supreme Court. It said,

“We are in anguish the way this institution is being treated for the last 3-4 years is as if this institution will die. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala, K Parasaran. … Every day we hear about bench-fixing, every day we hear of wrong practices in this court. This has to go. The day has come when we have to rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot run the Supreme Court. … Don’t provoke us anymore. We want to tell the rich and the powerful that they are playing with fire. This is not the way a country can run,”

(With inputs from PTI)


Also Read: 

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Order on advocate’s claims of conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi reserved

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Justice AK Patnaik to look into ‘conspiracy’ angle

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a petition filed by the State against the order of the trial court whereby the accused was discharged of the offence punishable under Section 12 (punishable for sexual harassment) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).

The subject FIR was registered on the complaint of the prosecutrix alleging that the accused was her first cousin and they were also friends. It was alleged that they used to talk over the phone and accused recorded some conversation with her, because of which she stopped to him. Further, that on the date of the incident, when the prosecutrix was coming back from school he stopped her mid-way and held her hand and misbehaved with her and asked her as to why she was not talking to him and threatened her and made her sit on his scooty and took her to Rakabganj Gurudwara. Pursuant to this incident, FIR was registered.

The trial court, in the impugned order, while framing charge against the accused under various sections of the Penal Code, discharged him of the offence under Section 12 of the POCSO Act. Trial Court was of the view that the only allegation against the accused was that he had caught hold of the hand of the victim and forcibly took her to Gurudwara on his scooty.

Meenakshi Dahiya, APP for the State, challenged the order of discharge. Per contra, Rakesh Pal Singh, Advocate for the accused, opposed the petition.

The High Court noted that perusal of the record as also the statement was given by the prosecutrix does not prima facie show that any act was done by the accused with any sexual intent. The allegations against the accused, who was the first cousin of the victim, showed that he was upset with the victim not talking to him. The Court observed, “The substantive offence (Section 11) for which punishment is prescribed under Section 12 POCSO, clearly indicates that the precondition for the section to be attracted is that an act, as enumerated therein, is done with sexual intent. Clearly in the subject case, from the allegations against the respondent, no such intention even prima facie is coming forward.”

In such view of the matter, it was held that there was no infirmity in the impugned order. The petition was, therefore, dismissed. [State (NCT of Delhi) v. Baljeet Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9109, decided on 11-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of K. Harilal and T.V Anil Kumar, JJ. dismissed an appeal made by the maternal grandparents of the child after taking into consideration, the welfare of the child.

This case is related to the custody of the child. In this case, appellant – maternal grandparents of the child – submitted before the Court that their daughter Sajna was married to the respondent and she was later found dead in her matrimonial house in a suspicious condition. They further claimed that the 2-year girl child of the appellant was always taken care of by them and the respondent- father never took care of the child as if he was not interested in the child. A petition was filed by the grandparents in the Family Court for a decree of perpetual prohibitory injunction restraining the respondent from taking forcible custody of the child. The Family Court dismissed the petition. Aggrieved thereby, this appeal had been filed by the grandparents.

Learned counsels for the appellant Jacob Sebastian and K.V Winston submitted that after the suspicious death of the appellant’s daughter, the child was taken care of by them and the respondent declined to take care of her. A case was also lodged against the respondent in the police station under Sections 498-A, 304-B, 302, 201 and 149 of the Penal Code, 1860. Further, the respondent was a drunkard and spendthrift who used to ill-treat their deceased daughter and demanded dowry. His cruel conduct towards his wife resulted in her death. Respondent remarried for his pleasure, forgetting that he had a child to look after. Thus, he was unfit to seek permanent custody of the child. They also alleged respondent to have sexually harassed the child.

Learned counsels for the respondent, G. Sreekumar averred that after the death of his wife, respondent alone had maintained the child and taken care of her affairs. Appellant or her family members never took care of the child. He was not responsible for the death of his wife and as a matter of fact, her death was due to heart failure. She was an epileptic patient even before marriage which had been suppressed. It was claimed that the respondent was a driver by occupation and able to meet the financial needs of the child.

The Court observed that whenever there is a rival claim for guardianship, the court’s power to appoint the most suitable person among the contestants could be exercised only upon taking into view those considerations which weigh in favour of the welfare of the child. The Court also observed that the allegations made by the appellant were false. Also, the respondent earned well whereas the appellants were old and had less financial means. Moreover, the allegation made regarding sexual harassment was false.  The Court thus dismissed the appeal and gave permanent custody of the child to the respondent-father. However, appellants were allowed to meet the child on the premises of the Family Court every Saturday from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM.[Suhara v. Muhammad Jaleel, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1237, decided on 10-04-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

The In-House committee, headed by Justice SA Bobde, also comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, found “no substance” in the sexual harassment allegations levelled by a former Supreme Court employee against the CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

The notice published on Supreme Court website read that the report has been submitted to the next senior judge competent to received the report i.e. Justice Arun Mishra. A copy of the report has also been handed over to the Chief Justice. It also stated that according to the verdict in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India, (2003) 5 SCC 494, the report of any Committee constituted as a part of in-house procedure can’t be made public.

The former employee had submitted her complaint against the CJI in an affidavit form to 22 Supreme Court judges on April 19.


Also Read: 

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Order on advocate’s claims of conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi reserved

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Justice AK Patnaik to look into ‘conspiracy’ angle

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ has appointed former Supreme Court judge, Justice A. K. Patnaik, to hold an inquiry into the allegations made in the affidavits.to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.

The bench, however, clarified that the outcome of the inquiry shall not affect the in-house procedure/inquiry which is pending in the administrative side in any manner whatsoever. It said,

“this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India. This is with respect to the contents of the affidavits, whether the affidavits are correct or not.”

The Court also asked the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to cooperate with the Hon’ble Judge as and when their services are required at any point of time for the purpose of investigation of the matter.

Asking Justice Patnaik to submit a report to this Court on the basis of the inquiry as to the allegations mentioned in the affidavits, the bench said that it will next take up the matter after the report is submitted.

On 24.04.2019, Advocate Bains had submitted an affidavit in Court in a sealed cover. The bench had directed that,

“It is to be kept in a sealed cover in total confidentiality, as it contains highly sensitive information pertaining to the alleged conspiracy, according to him, to frame Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India into a case of sexual harassment.”

Naming Tapan Kumar Chakraborty and Manav Sharma and others in his affidavit, Advocate Bains had mentioned that,

“the disgruntled employees have ganged together in order to frame Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India in the false charge of sexual harassment after their dismissal from their services.”

He has also alleged that they have asserted that they could fix the Bench of the Judges.

The Court had, on 24.04.2019, said,

“Considering the seriousness of the allegations as the system has absolutely no place for such fixers, we cannot leave the matter at that. It becomes our responsibility to keep this Institution clean as well as to ensure that the image of this Institution is not tarnished by such allegations to undertake the probe in the matter.”

[In Re : Matter of great public importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 604, order dated 25.04.2019]


Also read:

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Order on advocate’s claims of conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi reserved

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Advocate claiming ‘conspiracy’ to appear before SC tomorrow

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ has reserved its order on the issue of setting up an inquiry committee to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case. The bench will pronounce its order later in the day.

During the course of the hearing, advocate Utsav Bains, who made the claim about a conspiracy to frame Justice Gogoi, submitted an additional affidavit on the direction of the court. In his affidavit, Bains submitted that he cannot share the names of the “fixers” as “privileged communication under the Advocates Act” cannot be disclosed.

Attorney General KK Venugopal said the claim of privilege under Section 126 of the Evidence Act is not applicable to any communication between Bains and the alleged fixers. He said that a court can ask for any document relevant to a case.
Supporting the Attorney General’s argument, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Rakesh Khanna submitted that there is “no sacrosanct right” to withhold any document. He said that the court has the power to seek production of documents over which privilege
is claimed.

“Whatever he (Bains) divulged to us, in any case, our power to inspect the documents is there,”

Mishra, J said,

“There is systematic attempt/game, so many things have not come out. The truth has not come out. These things are in the air for a long time and people of the country must know the truth. There has been a systemic attack against the Supreme Court,”

“We are in anguish the way this institution is being treated for the last 3-4 years is as if this institution will die. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala, K Parasaran. … Every day we hear about bench-fixing, every day we hear of wrong practices in this court. This has to go. The day has come when we have to rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot run the Supreme Court. … Don’t provoke us anymore. We want to tell the rich and the powerful that they are playing with fire. This is not the way a country can run,”

Senior advocate Indira Jaising told the court that the inquiry headed by Justice S A Bobde into the sexual harassment charge and the case before the court should be conducted together.

Mishra, J, however, clarified that that the outcome of this inquiry into the conspiracy charge will not affect that inquiry into the sexual harassment charge. He remarked,

“Three to five per cent lawyers are giving a bad name to this institution. Don’t provoke us any further, we are worried as judges. We will see
how it can be an independent inquiry.”

On Tuesday, a three-member committee of the court led by Justice Bobde, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, was formed to look into the allegation of sexual harassment made by a dismissed employee against Justice Gogoi. The other two members of the committee are Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Justice Ramana is the third in the seniority list in the Supreme court and will the Chief Justice after the retirement of Justice Bobde.

(Source: ANI)


Also read:

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: Advocate claiming ‘conspiracy’ to appear before SC tomorrow

Sexual Harassment allegations against CJI: 2-judge bench to hear the matter after CJI opts out mid-way

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, RF Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ has sought response from advocate Utsav Bains, who claimed that there is a conspiracy to frame up the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case. The Court has posted the matter for hearing tomorrow and has sought Utsav Bains’s presence before it.

The bench was hearing a case relating to the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi. The charges have been leveled by a dismissed
woman employee of the Supreme Court.

Advocate Utsav Bains on Monday filed an affidavit saying there was a larger ‘conspiracy’ playing out to compel the CJI to resign. He claimed that when he refused to take up the case on finding several loopholes in her story, the person offered him Rs 50 lakh, which was raised to Rs 1.50 crore. Bains further claimed that on inquiry, he found that “certain fixers”, who claim to be engaged in illegally managing judgments in exchange for cash, were behind the plot as the Chief Justice had taken decisive action to crack down on such fixers.

“The said fixer Romesh Sharma was running a ‘cash for judgment’ racket in cahoots with businessmen and politicians and had exercised considerable influence for years, which ultimately was brought to an end by the present CJI, as he took decisive action against them after becoming CJI.”

He further claimed,

“There was a conspiracy against the Chief Justice of India to force him to resign and thereby threaten every judge with dire consequences for being free and fearless in dispensing justice while pronouncing judgments against the rich and powerful in the country.”

On Saturday, a Special bench met for a sitting to discuss online media reports of sexual harassment allegations against CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The bench said,

“The independence of the judiciary is under very serious threat and there is a larger conspiracy to destabilise the judiciary,”

The hurriedly constituted 3-judge special bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, in the case related to allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, was reduced to a 2-judge bench when CJI left it to justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna to take a call on the issue of passing judicial order.

As the hearing progressed, the CJI opted out midway from passing any judicial order and said,

“I am not going to be a part of the judicial order. Justice Arun Mishra is the senior most judge available in Delhi and he will dictate the order,”

The bench, however, did not pass any judicial order and left it to the wisdom of the media to decide on the publication of reports in order to protect the independence of the judiciary.

(Source: ANI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A hurriedly constituted 3-judge special bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, in the case related to allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, was reduced to a 2-judge bench when CJI left it to justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna to take a call on the issue of passing judicial order.

As the hearing progressed, the CJI opted out midway from passing any judicial order and said,

“I am not going to be a part of the judicial order. Justice Arun Mishra is the senior most judge available in Delhi and he will dictate the order,”

The notice issued by the Supreme Court registry, that became public around 10:15 AM said,

“Take note that a special bench consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna is being constituted to have a special sitting at 10:30 AM. Today, i.e. the 20th April, 2019 in the Chief Justice’s Court to deal with a matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary, on a mention being made by Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General.”

When contacted, Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said the story come out in several news portals Saturday morning around 8-9 AM and they came to know about it at around 9-9:30 AM. He said the matter was mentioned before the CJI by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and the court took it up.

On the query that the CJI’s name is not reflected in the order uploaded on the Supreme court website, Kalgaonkar said the CJI mentioned in the court whatever his lordship wanted to say and, thereafter it was taken over by the other two judges on the judicial side.

He also made it clear that the CJI is the “master of roster” and “whatever bench the lordship will constitute, the said bench will hear the matter” and it will listed for further hearing in due course.

(Source: PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

MJ Akbar had filed a case against Priya Ramani alleging her of defaming him by leveling the charges of sexual misconduct during the MeToo campaign.

Ramani, who appeared before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, however, pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.

MJ Akbar had filed a defamation case against her, stating the cause that the article published by Ramani in which she had stated she was sexually harassed by MJ Akbar in the past. Several women had raised their voices in support of Ramani along with the ones who had been the victim of the same.

Patiala House Court will hear the case next on 04-05-2019 and granted permanent exemption to Ms Ramani from personal appearance. She was granted bail on 25-02-2019.

MJ Akbar’s legal team had told the court that Priya Ramani damaged his reputation by levelling “false, wild and baseless allegations”.

[Source: NDTV]


#MeToo | Bail granted to Journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, Journalist Priya Ramani appeared in the Patiala House District Court for the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar (Former Union Minister).

Priya Ramani was the first woman to accuse MJ Akbar of sexual allegations during the “#me too” campaign.

MJ Akbar had filed a defamation case against her, stating the cause that the article published by Ramani in which she had stated she was sexually harassed by MJ Akbar in the past. Several women had raised their voices in support of Ramani along with the ones who had been the victim of the same.

Therefore, today on appearance at the Patiala House District Court, Ramani was granted bail with a bond of Rs 10,000 by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Samar Vishal.
Ramani after the court proceedings gave a statement that “truth is her defence” and after the next date it will be her turn to tell the story.

The next date of hearing is fixed to be 10-04-2019.

[Source: ANI]

Law School NewsOthers

Partners for Law in Development (PLD) in collaboration with the GNLU Centre for Law and Society (GCLS) is conducting a one day workshop on Building Consent Culture: Preventing Sexual Harassment at the University on February 11, 2019, i.e., Monday from 3 P.M. onward.
The discussion shall raise pertinent questions regarding the agency of an individual with respect to her/his sexuality, as well as denial in the context of harassment. It promises to be a step towards initiating dialogue, educating and raising awareness, while also inculcating a culture of consent at our campus.
We invite you to register for the Workshop through the registration links available here (English) and here (Hindi). A teaser for the Workshop may be found here. Kindly contact the undersigned or Ms. Chaitra S. (+91-9880212736) in case of any queries.
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Mumbai (ITAT): A Bench comprising Saktijit Dey (JM) and Manoj Kumar Aggarwal (AM), allowed actor Sushmita Sen’s appeal against the order of Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals), holding that the amount received in lieu of sexual harassment claim is not taxable.

The assessee who had received a sum of Rs 1.45 crores from Coca-Cola India Limited as a settlement amount for breach of celebrity engagement contract, submitted only Rs 50 lakhs out of the said amount to tax claiming the balance Rs 95 lakhs to be capital receipts. CIT(A) held that the payment received by assessee actor arose out of cancellation of the contract and did not affect the trading structure of her profession. The termination was a part and parcel of her profession not amounting to the loss of an enduring asset causing abrupt close down of her profession or dislocation of the capital structure of her profession earning apparatus. Therefore, the entire amount was held to be revenue receipts. Aggrieved thereby, the instant appeal was filed.

Submission on behalf of the assessee was that the full amount of Rs 1.45 crores was received as compensation for her sexual harassment by an employee of Coca-Cola. However, out of abundant caution, she considered a sum of Rs 50 lakhs due to her under the contract as her income and submitted the same for taxation.

The Tribunal, after appreciation of materials on record, found that in case of default by Coca-Cola, only Rs 50 lakhs was due to the assessee as per the terms of the contract. She had received Rs.1.45 crore out of which Rs 50 lakhs had been offered to tax. The balance amount of Rs 95 lakhs was received as a settlement in a sexual harassment claim. The appeal was allowed holding that since the said amount did not arise out of exercise of profession by the assessee, it could not be construed to be her income or profits and gains of profession within the meaning of Section 2(24) and Section 28 of the Income Tax Act, 1961.[Sushmita Sen v. CIT, Income Tax Appeal No. 4351/Mum/2015, decided on 14-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Judge Bench comprising of Ranjit More and Bharati H. Dangre, JJ., quashed the criminal proceedings for the offence punishable under Sections 354, 504, 506 and 509 of IPC,1860 on dispute being settled amicably by the parties.

The case was filed against Ness Nusli Wadia by the actress Preity Zinta for the offence under Sections 354, 504, 506 and 509 of IPC, 1860. It was stated that during the pendency of the case, the well-wishers, friends and family of the parties intervened for an amicable settlement after which the respondent 2 filed an affidavit in which it was expressed that she has no objection to quash the criminal proceeding.

Therefore, the Court on noting the affidavit filed for quashing the criminal proceeding with her own free will and respondent stating that the dispute is settled and she wants to move in life by not further proceeding for the case, the High Court quashed the subject criminal proceedings.

Further, the High Court by placing reliance on the decision of Supreme Court in Madan Mohan Abbot v. State of Punjab, (2008) 4 SCC 582 stated that no purpose would be served by keeping the subject FIR alive except ultimately burdening the Criminal Courts. The petition stands allowed. [ Ness Nusli Wadia v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 3361,  dated 10-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of R.K. Gauba, J. dismissed a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of FIR registered under Sections 354-A, 354-D and 509 IPC.

The first informant was a married woman. Her husband was running a bad health and she was constrained to look for gainful employment. With help of the petitioner, she started working in a private company where the petitioner was also employed as a supervisor. In the FIR, the first informant narrated incidents where the petitioner made indecent proposals to her; made unwanted physical contacts and advances with sexual overtures; and passed sexually coloured remarks. Such acts amount to sexual harassment under Section 354-A IPC. The allegations also indicated assault on the person of first informant, knowing fully well that thereby her modesty was being outraged.

The High Court took note of the new criminal law as amended after the public outcry in wake of certain serious crimes involving sexual assaults. The Court was of the view that such offences, as mentioned in the FIR reflect mental depravity, to say the least. The petitioner was trying to take undue advantage of a helpless and hapless woman. Women and girls cannot be allowed to become easy prey for lecherous kind in civilised society. Relying on the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Ahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641, the Court held that the first informant, having done her duty as an awakened citizen, cannot now put a lid on the matter. The case goes beyond her personal grouse. Allowing such charges to be quashed only because the petitioner may have apologised to her would not only trivialize the issue but also set a bad precedent. Having regard to the aforementioned, the Court declined to entertain the prayer in the petition. The petition was, hence, dismissed. [Roshan Lal v. State (NCT of Delhi),2018 SCC OnLine Del 10704, dated 27-07-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ asked chief justices or acting chief justices of all high courts to set up anti-sexual harassment committees in courts across the country within two months in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by a practising woman advocate who alleged that she had been assaulted by some lawyers observing a strike at the Tis Hazari district court complex. Asking the crime branch of Delhi Police to investigate the cross complaints filed by the lawyers, the Bench asked the woman lawyer and the Bar leaders to amicably settle their disputes and directed that advocates from both sides should not be arrested in connection with the two cross FIRs filed by them against each other.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 requires every workplace to set up committees to probe sexual harassment complaints.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Vibhu Bakhru, J, dismissed a petition against an impugned order in which the Complaint Committee had exonerated Respondent 3 of charges of sexual harassment leveled against him. The petition also challenged the order of the Disciplinary Authority which passed an order in accordance with the findings of the Complaint Committee.

The matter took place on 29.04.2005. The petitioner alleged that while she was working at the laboratory, Respondent 3 had entered the laboratory and created a ruckus, by snatching the samples and throwing the research materials. The Respondent 3 had then, allegedly, pushed the petitioner locked her outside the laboratory. Subsequent to these events, the petitioner was requested to complete the formalities relating to certain equipment of HEM division before leaving the machines as the said division was dissolved. A complaint note was then prepared by the petitioner and forwarded to the Director, CRRI by proper channels. A Complaint Committee was formed comprising of five members. The committee found that the complaint, though, alleged sexual harassment, it was a case of altercation in the background of uncongenial environment prevailing in the Division.

The complainant argued that since there was physical contact during the incident, it would amount to sexual harassment as any physical contact must necessarily amount to sexual harassment. The court said that all physical contact can’t be termed as sexual harassment and only physical contact and advances in the nature of an “unwelcome sexually determined behaviour” would amount to sexual harassment. In the instant case, the physical contact was in due course of an altercation and was without sexual undertones. The Court, finding no infirmity with the impugned order, dismissed the same. [Shanta Kumar v. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 11388, decided on 31.10.2017]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission: The appellant, who was a Research Assistant at National Commission for Women, had filed an RTI application claiming that her term was not extended to “harass her for daring to raise her voice.” She alleged sexual harassment by the Deputy Secretary. When her term was extended then she complained that extension letter contained unjust questions regarding her performance. The RTI application was denied on the ground of it being “third party information.” It is to be noted that the first appeal was rejected by the same officer against whom the charge of sexual arrangement was placed.

The Commission noted that while hearing the first appeal, the Appellate authority has violated Section 19(6) of the RTI Act, and also failed to observe the principles of natural justice. The Commission also took note of the fact that there was a “sudden increase” in the remuneration of contractual employees who were on the enquiry committee and notice from the CIC was also left unanswered by the NCW.

The Commission observed that “the submission of the appellant reflect unhealthy environment at workplace in the forum which supposed to protect the rights of women. Her right to life, right to work and right to information were seriously endangered by sexual harassment by senior. If this is the fate of woman who is working as research assistant in National Commission for Women, what will be the plight of ordinary women outside the NCW?”

The Commission directed: (i) to give a timely response explaining reasons for breach of two statutes on Sexual Harassment and Right to Information in case of appellant; (ii) To facilitate inspection to the appellant; (iii) The CPIO Mr. G Nagarajan to show-cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed against him for not furnishing the information sought by the appellant within stipulated time, before 14.07.2017; (iv) The Deputy Secretary, Mr. V.V.B. Raju, considering him as deemed PIO, to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed against him; (v) The Member Secretary to explain why the NCW should not be ordered to pay compensation to the appellant for the harassment; (vi) In exercising the powers under section 18 (1) of RTI Act, the respondent authority to conduct inquiry in to the appellant’s complaints against Mr. VVB Raju, the increase in remuneration of inquiry committee members and witnesses before inquiry committee in case of complaint of sexual harassment, and provide the report to this Commission, before 14.08.2016. [Nammi Bano v. PIO, National Commission for Women, 2017 SCC OnLine CIC 737, Order dated 16.06.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the petitioner, who had filed a PIL pertaining to the challenge to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules of 2001, framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, had alleged sexual harassment by one of the opponents, the Court said that the petitioner had crossed all sense of propriety, restraint, decorum and, in fact, demonstrated brazen sense of insensibility and insensitivity to the process of adjudication and dignity for women. The Court added that when a public spirited person advocates for a cause which he feels is a public cause and this Court entertains the public interest litigation, more additional responsibility has to be cultivated by the petitioner.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ said that when the petitioner’s public interest litigation was entertained and he was permitted to argue in person, he should have understood that this Court had appreciated his concern for the lis, but by filing the present interlocutory application, it seems that he has thrown the initial decorum that allowed him to address the Court to the winds. The bench noticed that even though the allegations made are scandalous, unwarranted, indecent and absolutely uncalled for, the petitioner should have been well advised that such kind of allegations are not made in an application which has nothing to do with the subject matter of the lis, but may have something to do with a particular individual.

The Court directed that neither the electronic media nor the print media shall publish anything that will relate to identity of the lady or any remark in the interlocutory application as that stands expunged by this Court. Restraining the petitioner from circulating the interlocutory application in any manner whatsoever or speaking about it or publishing them either directly or indirectly, the Court added that any activity of this nature would amount to contempt of this Court and if such an event takes place, the person concerned will invite the wrath of law and the consequences of the same may be quite disastrous for him. [Sabu Steephen v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1297, order dated 22.11.2016]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: In a writ petition filed by Additional District and Sessions judge of Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services casting accusations of sexual harassment against a sitting judge of Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Court directed the Chief Justice of the said High Court to refrain himself from the “in-house proceedings”, and easing off accused judge of the administrative duties for fair and unbiased proceedings while also laying down detailed seven-step procedure for in-house proceedings against misconduct of a High Court judge.

In the present case, the petitioner was allegedly made a victim of sexual harassment by a High Court judge. When not giving to his questionable advances, she was harassed by him and court officials served a transfer order to a remote district in between the year in response to which she tendered her resignation. On revealing of this harassment to letters addressed to President of India, Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court a “in-house proceeding” was constituted which according to her was not formed and worked according to guidelines of the court laid down in C. Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee, (1995) 5 SCC 457.

The bench headed by Jagdish Singh Khehar and Arun Mishra, JJ.,taking serious note of the matter accepted the arguments of the counsel of the petitioner. The Court held that the committee appointed by the MP High Court Chief Justice for in house proceeding comprising of colleague judges of the accused judge cannot be expected to proceed without bias to either parties. The chief justice was not right in constituting a committee which was meant to investigate the matter in depth when he was required to facilitate prima facie fact finding committee only, with respect to the guidelines in Ravichandran Iyer case. It also ordered to divest the accused judge of his administrative and supervisory functions so as to remove apprehensions of his influencing witnesses for ensuring fair and just investigation which would be further done in the supervision of chief justice of India de novo in a manner he may deem fit. Taking note of the importance of the matter and its wide implication the court further elaborated on the guidelines for such investigation laid down in Ravichandran Iyer case in a seven step procedure and directed the supreme court registry to display it on court’s website for information in public domain. Additional District and Sessions Judge ‘X’ v. Registrar General, High Court of Madhya Pradesh, 2014 SCC OnLine SC 1025, dated 18.12.2014

High Courts

Kerala High Court– Taking a stern stand against the cases of sexual harassment of minors by their close relatives, the bench of B.K. Pasha, J stated that a matter relating to sexual harassment especially by relatives towards minor girls cannot be permitted to be compounded and if done so, would send a wrong signal to the society.

In the present case, the petitioner is the accused against whom allegations were made that he  repeatedly made specific sexual overtures and sexually harassed his 13 year old niece. The incident occurred when the mother of the daughter sent her to the company of the girl’s maternal uncle and grandmother..The victim repeatedly reported this to her mother but was pacified and intimidated to not to reveal it to anyone. Ultimately, the matter came into light when she revealed it to her father. Thereafter, the accused was charged under Sections 354 and 509 IPC.

Dismissing the case the Court observed that these minor victims deserve justice and not a mere compromise The cases where a cruel act is done towards a minor girl and that too by her own relatives, and if proceedings of such cases are quashed so that to permit the so called compromise or settlement then it would give a wrong signal to the society. Radhakrishnan v. State of Kerala, 2014 SCC OnLine Ker 18264, decided on 1.12.2014