While hearing an appeal of a retired District Judge, the Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that to flirt with a junior judicial official is not acceptable conduct of a judge. The former judge had challenged the Madhya Pradesh High Court decision to initiate an in-house departmental inquiry against him on sexual harassment charges.
However, the three-judge bench comprising CJI S A Bobde, Justice A S Bopanna, and V Ramasubramaniam took note of the submissions of the petitioner’s counsel that it all started when the accused was in the zone consideration for elevation as a High Court judge.
Senior Advocate R Balasubramanium, appearing for the retired judicial officer submitted that the lady officer had levelled the sexual harassment allegations during the promotion of his client and it was all done to hamper the process.
“This phenomenon is ubiquitous. All kinds of allegations come during promotion. We cannot generalise it. In this case, there is (an) allegation,” replied CJI Bobde.
The petitioner’s counsel further argued that the woman judicial officer had withdrawn her complaint under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, and hence, the disciplinary proceedings by the High Court are not maintainable.
To which, the bench replied that the complainant might have withdrawn the complaint because of embarrassment but it will not preclude the HC from initiating separate department proceedings.
The petitioner had questioned whether the High Court is empowered to order a department inquiry or not.
Referring to the WhatsApp messages, the apex court stated that the messages were quite offensive and if such behaviour is permitted then the work atmosphere cannot remain conducive for judicial work.
The bench further suggested the former judicial officer that he should withdraw his appeal against the High Court order and face the inquiry. It was further added that the Supreme Court is not going to hear the matter further and a High Court is always competent to order a departmental inquiry.
Over the request of the petitioner’s counsel, the matter has now posted after a week.