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Supreme Court asks District Judge accused of sexual harassment to move Madhya Pradesh HC with his plea for quashing of show cause notice

The show-cause notice sought to be quashed was issued to the Judge based on a final report submitted by the Internal Complaints Committee. Petitioner alleged that this report was prepared against the scheme of the law.

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a petition filed by a Judge from Madhya Pradesh who sought the quashing of show cause notices issued to him in relation to allegations of sexual harassment (Shambhoo Singh Raghuvanshi vs The High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur).

The Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and Surya Kant refused to entertain the plea filed by the District Judge from Dewas, Madhya Pradesh stating that his plea to quash the show cause notice issued to him is not a case fit for invoking Article 32 jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The petitioner Judge has been asked to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court for the relief being sought by him. The petitioner, as such, sought to withdraw the petition and the plea stood dismissed as withdrawn.

The writ petition is, accordingly, dismissed as withdrawn. Needless to mention that the petitioner may avail such other remedies as may be available in law.
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The petitioner, in his plea, sought to quash a report prepared by the Gender Sensitization and Internal Complaint Committee (GSICC) in relation to the sexual harassment complaint against him as well as the show cause notice issued based on this report.

He claims that he has had “an unblemished career of over 32-years with sterling record of service.” Moreover, he alleges that the entire process against him is “vitiated” on account of the same being done without his participation and “behind his back” thereby being against the principles of natural justice. As such, the proceedings deserve to be quashed, the petioner asserted.

The judge further argues in his plea that the action was taken against him when the he is at the fag end of his service and may be considered for elevation. The petitioner avers,

“All these actions have been done at a time when the petitioner is in the zone of consideration for being considered for elevation. The action has apparently been kept pending for last more than two years with a view to harm the career prospects of the petitioner at a time when he is in the zone of consideration.”

There has been a lapse on the part of the GSICC, the petitioner argues. In this regard, he says that the provision of Section 10 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 have been overlooked.

An application for conciliation was made by the complainant and the same was rejected by the committee in violation of Section 10, the petitioner Judge says. It is further added,

“The GSICC acted as if it is a Court of Law by rejecting the said application where as, it is mandated in law that it shall record a settlement once a conciliation application is submitted by the complainant. The GSICC/ICC (Internal Complaint Committee) being creation of a statute is bound by the provisions of the Act and it cannot traverse beyond as if it is a Court of law.”

Once an application for conciliation has been made, the GSICC is not empowered to proceed with the inquiry, the Judge underlines to make his case. Despite the same, the GSICC proceeded to formulate a final report against the petitioner and also went on to “strongly recommended action to be taken against the complainant for not willing to proceed with the inquiry.”

Not only is the dismissal of the conciliation application unsustainable in law but the action of the GSICC to proceed with the final report is also in violation of the statutory framework, the petitioner submits.

Factual aspects are also highlighted by the petitioner who says that while GSICC drafted its report, it found that the charges of sexual harassment were not proved. However, the committee still recommended disciplinary action against the petitioner. This is “self-contradictory”, the petitioner seeks to submit.

Therefore, the Judge sought the quashing of the show cause notices issued to him by the Registrar of the High Court based on the final report submitted by the GSICC in the case. He also sought directions for recording the details pertaining to the settlement and the conciliation application filed by the complainant.

The Judge had urged that he be relieved from all consequences arising out of the show cause notices issued to him.

The petition was filed through Advocate Sachin Sharma and settled by Senior Advocate R Balasubramanian.

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