SC reinstates a woman AD & SJ who was constrained to resign, after she raised allegations of sexual harassment against then sitting Judge of the MP HC

SC reinstates a woman AD & SJ who was constrained to resign, after she raised allegations of sexual harassment against then sitting Judge of the MP HC

The Supreme Court reinstated a woman AD & SJ who was constrained to resign, after she raised allegations of sexual harassment against the then sitting Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Background 

The petitioner was selected in the competitive examination of Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services at District Entry Level (direct recruitment from Bar) conducted in the year 2011, and stood 2nd in the said examination.  On her selection, the petitioner was posted as a 2nd  to 1st Additional District and Sessions Judge at Gwalior. The petitioner was posted as VIIIth  AD & SJ, Gwalior. In the 1st Annual Confidential Report of the petitioner, assessed in January, 2013 by the then District and Sessions Judge and approved by the then Portfolio/Administrative Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Gwalior Bench, she was given ‘C/good’ grading. The petitioner was assigned various additional responsibilities in the year 2013. In her 2nd ACR, assessed in the month of January, 2014 by the then D & SJ and endorsed by Justice ‘A’, the petitioner was graded ‘B/very good’. 

Arguments 

Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, contended that the MP High Court was bound by the Transfer Guidelines/Policy of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh incorporated on 12th January 2012.

She argued that as per the Transfer Policy, the normal tenure of a Judicial Officer at a particular posting is of 3 years, and a period of 6 months or more is to be treated as a full year.   Accordingly, the petitioner could have been transferred in March 2014 as she had already completed more than 2 years and 6 months till then.  

Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the respondents, contended that the allegations made by the petitioner with regard to sexual harassment are found to be not established by the JIC.  He submitted that the said findings were recorded as back as on 15th December 2017, which were not challenged, and in any case, cannot be questioned or assailed   in ancillary proceedings like the present one.

Decision 

The division bench of  Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai noted that in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, the petitioner’s resignation could not be construed to be voluntary. 

The court said that the petitioner had made a representation to the President of India as well as the Chief Justice of India, with a copy to the Chief Justice of the MP High Court for reconsideration of the circumstances under which, she was left with no option but to resign. 

“We may remind ourselves of the dictum that law is supreme and no one is above law.  It would be apt to reproduce the words of Thomas Fuller, which have been quoted by Lord Denning, “Be ye never so high, the law is above you” the court said.

The court held and declared that the petitioner’s resignation from the post of Additional District & Sessions Judge, Gwalior, cannot be construed to be voluntary and as such, quashed and set aside the order, passed by the respondent, thereby accepting the resignation of the petitioner.

Case title: Ms. X v/s Registrar General, High Court of  Madhya Pradesh and Anr.

Citation: WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 1137 OF 2018

Click here to read the Order/Judgment

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