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Justice Ganguly Sexual harassment case: Is the judiciary applying different Yardstick to itself?
For all its progressive pronouncements against sexual harassment at the workplace, the Supreme Court has come up woefully short in addressing the issue within its fraternity.....A VACUUM!!!

For an institution that has always been regarded as the sanctum sanctorum and the country's pulse for righteousness and justice, the sexual harassment complaint against former Supreme Court Judge Ashok Kumar Ganguly by a young woman law intern has thrown up a challenge for the apex court to introspect.

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Earlier this week when the Supreme Court confirmed that Justice Ganguly was the unspecified judge who a young woman lawyer had written about in her blog in November, accusing him of sexually harassing her in a hotel room last December, there has been a stir among the political parties as well as in judicial fraternity.

Questions are also being raised whether justice Ganguly, who heads the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, “should continue in office or quit” and there has been big debates on the issue on which divided opinions came out both from his fraternity as well as political parties.

Eminent lawyer Harish Salve in a discussion on a national TV channel said that “our judges are supposed to be worthy of being worshipped. The interns who work under Supreme Court judges consider them as hallowed beings. Now for a person to function in such a situation (when he is an accused) does not do well for himself or to the institution. If he wants he can go on leave. The institutional integrity should be preserved and the WBHRC head must step aside.”

Whereas Senior advocate KTS Tulsi, who was also a part of the discussion, however chosen to differ, saying “Stepping down would almost result in admission of guilt.”  Even Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising opined that “Institutional Integrity should be the Yardstick as his (Justice Ganguly) conscience is also in trial” asserting for his resignation.

Also the delayed complaining of the issue - in some spear- evoked doubt about the blame and raised suspicion regarding the intent of the concerned woman intern. There have been many opinions on this debate. In the latest development an FIR has been lodged by an NGO and TMC also demanded his resignation from his highly elevated post in WBHRC.

If one will really look closely into this matter, definitely many reasonable questions will arise. He is an accused then why this privilege for him? Is there any difference between Justice Ganguly and Tehelka news magazine Tarun Tejpal? Or are judges more equal than others? This reveals the basic lacunae in dealing with the issue itself.

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”

Then Why different standards for judiciary? Because one is judge, the yardstick is different?

In fact so far as sexual cases are concerned here a very critical question also points on the preparedness of Supreme Court in particular and judiciary in general.

The possibility of sexual abuse or harassments looms large in any fiduciary relationship, in any industry and at any workplace. What sets apart the allegation by the former law student and intern that she was harassed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court from others is that..it unfortunately happened in the first place.

In 1997, the court suggested in the Vishaka case that “an appropriate complaint mechanism [against sexual abuse] be created in the employer’s organization for redressal of the complaint made by the victim.”

Isn’t it alarming to know that despite framing Vishaka guidelines the Supreme Court does not have a committee on the same line?

Not once were the Supreme Court’s own service rules amended to reflect the Vishaka guidelines….isn’t it raising an eyebrows?

As a result with absence of a remedial mechanism or an effective system in place to check, investigate or punish instances of sexual harassment by serving or former judges, the apex court now found itself in the dock.

The pertinent point is Judiciary is still not in the ambit of Vishakha Guidelines. This means that perhaps the judges and judiciary never thought that it would ever apply to them. Does this means that judges are super feudal in democracy?

No surprise then... That the lawyer in question “chose to blog” about her “ordeal and torment” rather than approaching the Supreme Court through a “formal complaint.”

Again in the absence of an effective remedial mechanism, the Chief Justice also had no option but to take suo motu cognizance of the matter.

His immediate reaction to designate three colleagues who would sit in judgment over their peer reveals how ill-prepared the Supreme Court is to address “questions of accountability.”

At present on contrary to his straight-faced denial, the three-judge fact-finding committee appointed by CJI found merit in the law graduate’s sexual harassment charges.

The CJI is likely to take a call on this issue this week but the allegations and the inquiry committee set up by the CJI has sparked an internal debate, the moot question being...

Should the conduct and actions of retired judges be investigated by an in-house committee comprising sitting judges?

A section of judges feel that the CJI being the head of the judiciary was duty bound to ensure the dignity of the institution that was not sullied by a “black sheep” and justified the action.

However there are others who though do not question the process but feel something otherwise.

Is this the super preparedness of Supreme Court and entire Judiciary in our country addressing sexual assault issues?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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