The Madras High Court has pulled up a woman judicial magistrate in Dharmapuri, ordering her to pay a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for violating the fundamental rights of a victim of sexual harassment.
Besides the compensation, Justice V K Sharma on Tuesday ordered initiation of departmental proceedings and imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on the magistrate for filing a false affidavit in the high court in the matter.
The action of Gunavathy, the Judicial Magistrate-I in Dharmapuri, was not bona fide. Her negligence had been pointed out as early as in October, 2000. But she had not chosen to correct the same. Instead, she continued to treat S Velankanni, the petitioner, as an accused and released her only on bail bond. By her irresponsible act, Gunavathy had deprived Velankanni of her liberty and hence, violated her fundamental rights, Justice Sharma said, ordering her to pay compensation.
The State should pay the amount immediately to Velankanni and recover the same from Gunavathy in accordance with law, the judge added.
Additionally, since the JM had filed a false affidavit, she should be proceeded against departmentally for acting with extreme negligence and further notice should be issued to her to show cause as to why proceedings under Section 340 of the CrPC should not be initiated against her, the judge said and directed that the matter be placed before the administrative side of the Madras High Court.
According to the petitioner, a native of S Kollapatti village belonging to the Christian Dobhi community, one John Kennedy, a Vanniar Christian from Sellayampatti, was in love with her. They became intimate after Kennedy promised to marry her and she became pregnant. However, Kennedy then refused to marry her and suggested abortion. Velankanni lodged a police complaint and the case came before Gunavathy.
Kennedy was arrested and remanded in judicial custody on October 16, 2000. Velankanni was taken to government hospital for a check-up the next day. She was then produced before Gunavathy, who remanded her to judicial custody without any inquiry. After three days in jail, where Velankanni was subjected to harassment, she was given bail with help from an advocate.
After release, the petitioner lodged a complaint with the TN State Women’s Commission. Following a direction from the Commissioner, a DNA test established Kennedy as being the father of her child.
Narrating the sequence of events, the petitioner filed the present writ petition seeking Rs 5 lakh towards compensation, in 2006.