Additional solicitor general (ASG) Indira Jaising, in an open letter published in the Times of India today, asked for greater transparency in the Supreme Court’s three-judge committee inquiry into the so-called #InternJudge sexual harassment case, and condemned former ASG Altaf Ahmed’s reported suggestion that interns should not work for judges anymore:
“Transparency in the functioning of such committees must be assured. Failure to do so has led to motivated rumours that the intern has not named the judge in question. It has also done a great disservice to the committee by giving rise to the suggestion that the judges threatened her to withdraw from the case.
It is therefore necessary that the Supreme Court as an institution and in full court take a decision on the procedure to be adopted while dealing with such complaints or enquiries. After all, there are two incumbent chief justices on this committee and the procedure they follow, matters for how they would approach the issue judicially when called upon to do so…
Unless the Court as an institution rises to the occasion and takes corrective action, it is in danger of losing its moral legitimacy, a fate too terrible to imagine. It is, after all, the only institution we have to seek justice in the true sense of the word.
“As a first step, the report of the committee of three judges must be made public as soon as possible so that the impression is not created that the Supreme Court is shielding the brotherhood of judges. After all, unless that is done, all judges will be suspect, those who are gender sensitive and those who are not, and that is not in anyone's interest. We as women lawyers respect judges who are respectful of us but disrespect judges who disrespect us and other women in words or action. It is our constitutional duty, under Article 51A of the Constitution of India, to renounce practices derogatory of women.
At this point of time, the Supreme Court must play a leadership role. To remain silent is to be complicit.”
Yesterday the Times of India had quoted ex-ASG Altaf Ahmed as being “totally against the practice of attaching interns — male or female — with judges of higher judiciary”.
Jaisingh rebutted this in her open letter: “The suggested solution -- not to take women interns --- is worse than the disease. The court must affirmatively demonstrate equal opportunity for women to make progress in the profession by guaranteeing them a safe working environment. Those who do not sexually harass have nothing to fear from women interns and lawyers”.
Meanwhile, former Supreme Court judge-turned-politician VR Krishna Iyer, called for the committee to disclose the name of both the victim and the accused judge in an article entitled “Sigmund Freud: Judges Proclivity”, which appeared on the website of RSS organ ‘Organizer’, reported the Times of India. Iyer wrote:
Even in this case, the judges of the Supreme Court, when they decided to take action against the erotic delinquent judge, have not mentioned his name anywhere, which is an elementary duty to other judges and to the community at large, nor have they resorted to the elementary rule that before criminal action is thought of, an FIR to the magistrate or the police is necessary. Why this fundamental flaw?
The former intern has already deposed before the committee once, with “full details of the case” and has requested the media to stop speculation on her inquiry, as first reported by Legally India. This was after a number of press reports, including those in the Hindu, the Economic Times, and the Mail Today, which misreported facts about her inquiry.
An unnamed friend of the intern also confirmed to Legally India that certain press reports were not accurate, and that contrary to unnamed source cited in such reports, SJ had actually named the ex-judge to the committee, did not preclude legal action before the committee, and notified the committee that she would not depose a second time on Wednesday. NDTV also reported that a friend of SJ’s confirmed that some media reports were inaccurate.