The Supreme Court today said a judge “sending offensive and improper messages to (a) junior officer and flirting with her is not acceptable”. These observations were made during a hearing of the petitions by a former judicial officer from Madhya Pradesh, appealing against the disciplinary action by the High Court in a sexual harassment case.
Senior lawyer Ravindra Shrivastava – representing Madhya Pradesh High Court – read out the WhatsApp messages sent by the former district judge to a junior woman officer.
After listening to the messages, Chief Justice SA Bobde said: “WhatsApp messages are quite offensive and improper. For a judge, this conduct with (a) junior officer is not acceptable.”
“If they have some understanding with each other… is it good to go ahead?” the Chief Justice asked.
“We learnt a lesson. Settle with him.” A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India, Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian were hearing the case.
The High Court lawyer told the Supreme Court that she wanted a settlement but the High Court committee probing the case did not accept it.
Col R Balasubramanian, senior advocate arguing for the retired judicial officer, told the top court that the woman officer withdrew her complaint but the High Court began departmental proceedings against his client.
Chief Justice shot back: “You thought you are having private conversation? The matter before the gender sensitisation committee came to an end with the lady declining to participate. The High Court wants to proceed and it is duty bound to do so… limited to disciplinary proceedings. What is there in (the) law, which can prevent the High Court proceedings?”
Ex Judicial officer’s lawyer argued that during his client’s promotion, these charges were levelled just to hamper the process.
To this, the Chief Justice replied: “This phenomenon is ubiquitous. All kinds of allegations come during promotion. We cannot generalise it. In this case, there is (an) allegation.”
Chief Justice told the ex-judicial Officer’s lawyer, “We are likely to make some sweeping observations in this case… you withdraw and contest the enquiry.”
The Supreme Court has adjourned the case by a week.