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SC notice to Justice Swatanter Kumar on plea of ex-intern

Justice Swatanter Kumar

The Supreme Court today admitted a petition of a former law intern alleging sexual harassment against its retired judge Swatanter Kumar, who, along with the Centre
Justice Swatanter KumarNew Delhi: The Supreme Court today admitted a petition of a former law intern alleging sexual harassment against its retired judge Swatanter Kumar, who, along with the Centre, was issued notice on her plea for setting up of a mechanism to deal with such cases at work place in judiciary.

The petition also sought an inquiry on her allegation against Justice Kumar.

A bench three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, however, made it clear that at this moment it was not expressing any opinion on the allegations made by the intern against Justice Kumar.

“On going through various prayers made, particularly in the light of the assertion made with reference to prayer (d) of the writ petition, that ‘as on date there is no mechanism to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment against all judicial officers, sitting or retired judges, whether while holding office or not’, we are inclined to consider these aspects.

“Accordingly, we issue notice to the respondent Nos.1 to 3, returnable on 14th February, 2014,” the bench, also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and S K Singh, said .

It also issued notice to Secretary General of the apex court. While dictating the order in open court, the bench appointed senior advocates Fali S Nariman and K K Venugopal as amicus curiae in the case but the order later named senior advocates Nariman and P P Rao as amicus curie.

The apex court also directed Attorney General G E Vahavati to assist it in the matter.

“We also issue notice to learned Attorney General for India… In addition to the same, in view of the importance of the issues raised and to formulate a permanent mechanism, we seek assistance of Fali S. Nariman and P.P. Rao, senior members of the Bar, to act as Amicus Curiae,” it said.

Leaving the allegation against Justice Kumar untouched, the bench said, “It is made clear that at this moment, we are not expressing any opinion on the averments/allegations made by the petitioner against the respondent No.2.”

At the outset, Justice Sathasivam raised a question why the intern came out so late regarding the alleged harassment and expressed apprehension that a complaint can be filed against a judge even 20 years after his retirement.

“Why she waited so long. Our apprehension is that even after 20 years when the judge reaches the age of 90 years, complaint can be filed,” the bench observed.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the intern, submitted that once a mechanism is set up to deal with such cases, then people will come within reasonable time to file the complaint.

He submitted that the court can fix the time frame within which a person can approach with complaints.

The bench said it is inclined to consider these aspects and asked the Centre to file response within four weeks.

PTI

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