Can't Give Job Back to Woman Judge Who Accused HC Judge of Sexual Harassment, SC Told

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The woman appeared before Russo in 2016 seeking a restraining order against a man she said sexually assaulted her.

New Delhi: The Madhya Pradesh High Court has refused to give the job back to a former woman judge who had accused a high court judge of sexual harassment.

In its response to a notice by the Supreme Court, the High Court has maintained that once the woman judge's allegations of sexual harassment “have already been rejected by the Inquiry committee, (her) petition is not maintainable and liable to be dismissed”.

The affidavit by the High Court added that she cannot be permitted to withdraw the resignation or to seek reinstatement since resignation once tendered and accepted by the employer cannot be withdrawn under the service jurisprudence.

"The allegations of misbehaviour against Judge A were completely baseless. The employer i.e. the high court has not acted in any manner to compel the petitioner to tender her resignation," stated the High Court.

An inquiry committee, set up by Rajya Sabha, had cleared the high court judge — since retired — of sexual harassment charges due to insufficient evidence. But it added that her mid-session transfer order had irregularities and was termed punitive. Upon her transfer, the former woman judge of Gwalior had resigned in 2014.

Relying upon the panel's findings relating to her transfer, she had moved the Supreme Court, asking her to be reinstated. The top court agreed to examine her plea, which was argued by senior lawyer Indira Jaising, and sought responses from the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the former judge of the High Court.

While the former HC judge is yet to respond, the High Court has shot down her plea for reinstatement.

"The petition is based on the allegations of sexual harassment and misbehavior committed by Judge A, the petitioner has not referred to any other basis which led her transfer or resignation. It is a matter of record; two separate inquiry committees have found the allegations not proved," emphasised the affidavit.

About the inquiry panel's findings on her transfer order, the High Court maintained that by commenting on this aspect, the inquiry committee exceeded its jurisdiction and travelled beyond its powers under the Judicial Inquiry Act, 1968.

"No value can be attached to the observation of the committee as it is clearly outside the scope and the committee while making said observation acknowledging that the said opinion was not within the purview of the reference," added the High Court. The Supreme Court is slated to take up the matter on Friday.