The Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated a judge who had resigned in July 2014 following her allegations of sexual harassment by a Madhya Pradesh High Court judge SK Gangele. The top court said that the resignation of the judge was coerced while directing her reinstatement with effect from July 2014 but without any back wages.
"The resignation cannot be construed to be voluntary. Order accepting resignation is quashed and set aside," the top court said.
The Supreme Court's reinstatement order ends the more than seven-year-old saga which began with her sexual harassment allegations.
The judge—who was an Additional District and Sessions Judge before she quit—said she was served with 'malafide' transfer orders mid-season from Gwalior an 'A' category city to Sidhi, a 'C' category city in a Naxal-hit area. Her requests to delay the transfer by eight months to allow her daughter to complete her 12th board exams were rejected. The woman judge quit soon after to protect her "dignity, womanhood and self-esteem".
Background of the case
A female judge posted at Gwalior in August 2014 had written to the then Chief Justice of India accusing Madhya Pradesh High Court Judge SK Gangele of repeated instances of sexual harassment and repeated requests to visit his bungalow. The woman judge alleged that Justice Gangele had once sent her a message through the district court registrar asking her to "perform dance on an item song" during a function in his residence.
The next day, Justice Gangele allegedly sent the woman judge a message reportedly saying that "he missed the opportunity of viewing a sexy and beautiful figure dancing on the floor and that he is desperate to see the same".
On August 9, 2014 the Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice apprised the CJI that an inquiry committee had been constituted to probe the complaint. The woman judge had challenged this, following which the Supreme Court quashed the inquiry committee and constituted a fresh committee headed by the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice.
In July 2015, the SC-appointed committee concluded that the allegations warranted a "deeper inquiry". Thereafter, CJI HL Dattu set up a three-judge committee comprising two high court Chief Justices and a High Court Judge to initiate a "deeper" inquiry.
Meanwhile, in March 2015, at least 58 Rajya Sabha Members submitted a petition to the Chairman and Vice President Hamid Ansari seeking to impeach the high court judge on three grounds: "sexual harassment of a woman Additional District and Sessions Judge of Gwalior while being a sitting judge of the Gwalior Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh"; "victimisation of the said Additional District and Sessions Judge for not submitting to his illegal and immoral demands, including, but not limited to, transferring her from Gwalior to Sidhi"; and "misusing his position as the Administrative Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh to use the subordinate judiciary to victimise the said Additional District and Sessions Judge."
A parliamentary panel headed by then-Supreme Court judge R Banumathi probed the complaint and in December 2017 could not prove the sexual harassment charges but agreed that the woman judge's transfer was unfair and punitive.
In 2017, the woman judge moved Madhya Pradesh High Court for reinstatement, but her request was denied by a resolution of the full court.
Subsequently, the woman judge appealed to the top court in 2018 seeking her reinstatement leading to the present verdict.
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