NEW DELHI: A sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, facing sexual harassment charges levelled by a former judicial officer, has been given a clean chit by a panel appointed by the Rajya Sabha chairman.
Now, Justice S K Gangele will not face impeachment proceedings.
The report of the committee constituted under the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968 was tabled in the Rajya Sabha today.
The panel, comprising Supreme Court judge R Bhanumathi, Justice Manjula Chellur and jurist K K Venugopal, was set up in April 2015 by the then Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari after admitting a motion supported by 58 members to impeach Justice Gangele.
Hundred MPs of the Lok Sabha or 50 members of the Rajya Sabha have to sign such a motion of impeachment for it to be accepted and taken up in the House.
In this case, 58 members had submitted a motion to Ansari for initiating the impeachment process against Justice Gangele for alleged sexual harassment of the woman judge in Gwalior.
The committee investigated the charges and the grounds for the removal of the judge.
The motion listed three "grounds of misconduct" for impeachment: "sexual harassment" of the woman judge; "victimisation" of the 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 MP High Court to use the subordinate judiciary to victimise the judge.
According to the provisions of the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968, if the motion is admitted, the Speaker of Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha chairman constitutes an investigation committee consisting of three members.
"The four instances of sexual harassment alleged by the complainant... are not proved beyond reasonable doubt... we hold that charge No 1 is not proved," the report said.
On the issue of her transfer from Gwalior to Sidhi, the committee said the transfer committee "committed an irregularity" on solely relying on the recommendation of district judge Kamal Singh Thakur and "without making any verification... was not justified" in transferring her mid- session.
"In our view, it (transfer) was punitive." The report said under transfer for wrong reasons and at a time when her child was set to take class 12 board exams, she had no option but to resign.
"... In the interest of justice, the complainant has to be re-instated back in the service, in case the complainant intends to re-join service. We are conscious that the above opinion is not within the purview of our reference," it said.
The panel also found no basis in the charge that Justice Gangele misused his position to use the lower judiciary to harass the complainant.
A total of 58 MPs, including Digvijaya Singh (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Derek O'Brien (TMC), Ram Gopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan (SP) had signed the impeachment motion.
In 1991, the first-ever impeachment action was initiated against Supreme Court judge V Ramaswami for misconduct in furniture purchase when he was the chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court. The motion was admitted by the Lok Sabha speaker and a vote was called, but it fell through after the ruling Congress abstained.