Bowing to growing pressure following allegations of sexual assault levelled against him by a law intern, Justice (retd) A K Ganguly Monday stepped down from the post of chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
The former Supreme Court judge drove to the Raj Bhavan here and handed over his resignation letter to Governor M K Narayanan during a 45-minute meeting, sources in the know said on condition of anonymity.
The resignation came hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking to restrain the government from proceeding against Ganguly. Ganguly, however, claimed he had "nothing to do" with the public interest litigation.
Top legal and political circles welcomed Ganguly's decision to quit, but said he should have done so earlier.
The union cabinet had already cleared the home ministry's proposal for a presidential reference to the Supreme Court for a probe into the allegations.
The proposal was being sent to President Pranab Mukherjee, for him to forward to the chief justice of India seeking a probe into the issue.
However, Ganguly's resignation from the human rights panel has rendered the reference infructuous, legal sources said.
The intern has alleged that Ganguly sexually harassed her at a five star hotel in Delhi in December 2012.
Ganguly has repeatedly denied the accusation and on December 23 wrote to the Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam, claiming there was a "concerted effort" to "tarnish his image" for giving judgements against "powerful quarters".
A three-member panel of apex court judges probing the allegations had earlier indicted Ganguly of "unwelcome behaviour".
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote twice to President Mukherjee for taking urgent n1ecessary action, so as to remove Ganguly from the post of WBHRC chief at the earliest.
Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, a section of the legal fraternity, several women's organisations and civil rights groups had also spearheaded a nationwide clamour for his resignation.
However, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee had stood by Ganguly.
Known as an upright judge during his 18-year tenure with various high courts and then the Supreme Court, Ganguly had given a number of landmark verdicts that nailed the high and the mighty.
Just before he retired, Ganguly ordered cancellation of 122 2G licences granted by then telecom minister A. Raja in 2008 due to financial irregularities.
Responding to Ganguly's decision vto quit, former attorney general Soli Sorabjee said: "When he talked to me yesterday over telephone, he said 'I am contemplating resignation'. I told him that's the right thing to do. Today he has resigned. But I think the media was unfair to him."
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaisingh, who had been at the forefront of the demand that Ganguly demit office, said: "It is the right step. When such allegations are leveled against people holding such august offices, they should not hold on to them."
National Women's Commission chairperson Mamta Sharma said: "It would have looked more diginified had he resigned when the allegation was leveled. Better late than never. But I have a feeling that had there been no pressure, he would not have resigned."
Congress leader Rashid Alvi said: "He should have put in his papers earlier. After lot of pressure, he has resigned."
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Prakash Javadekar said" "We had made this demand in the Lok Sabha. The girl's complaint is a serious matter. At last he has resigned. But it was long overdue."
Trinamool MP Kalyan Bandopadhay: "Irrespective of parties, everybody was demanding his resignation. I think it was India's view that he resign."