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Swatanter Kumar PIL adjourned: Ex-judge claims ‘malicious conspiracy’ - X says feared personal safety, told family, friends, teacher

The Supreme Court has adjourned its hearing in the public interest litigation (PIL) against Swatanter Kumar until 26 March, as two more interveners attempted to join the PIL.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi adjourned the matter in order to convene a three-judge bench.

Advocate Vrinda Grover appeared on behalf of X, the intern who accused Kumar of sexual harassment, while senior counsel KK Venugopal appeared for Kumar.

Attorney general Goolam Vahanvati and solicitor general Mohan Parasaran appeared for the government.

The two court-appointed amici curiae Fali Nariman and PP Rao also made an appearance and confirmed that they would prepare their report.

Two interveners also pleaded to be joined to the PIL but the court did not make any decision on whether to admit them. The original petitioners in the Vishaka case, which resulted in the Supreme Court formulating guidelines about sexual harassment in the workplace in 1997, are already interveners in the PIL.

Kumar denies sex harassment, claims X was malicious in ‘planned conspiracy’

As first reported by Legally India yesterday, Kumar had filed an affidavit claiming that the matter was sub-judice and that the Supreme Court was correct in its December decision that it couldn’t hear complaints against former judges.

According to the Times of India and the Indian Express, citing Kumar’s affidavit, he had also denied X’s allegations, claiming that “such allegations are not only malicious but are also intended to malign his image”, and that “the allegations, besides being false to the knowledge of the maker [X], are the result of a planned conspiracy against the respondent [Kumar]”.

Intern X: Kumar made her “fearful of her personal safety”, told parents, teacher, friends about alleged harassment

According to intern X’s petition, she had alleged that between 16 May 2011 and 29 May 2011 Kumar had made “unwelcome physical contact” with her, during her internship with him in 2011, and made suggestions of a “quid-pro-quo” arrangement, which filled her with “fear, anxiety and alarm” and had made her work environment “hostile and intimidating”.

In particular, on 28 May, he allegedly asked X “to come to his side of the desk, places his arm around her and kisses her shoulder”, according to X’s petition.

On 28 May, X claims that she had told her parents, a friend, and a faculty member at NUJS Kolkata, the college where she studied, about the alleged sexual harassment by Kumar, and “fearful of her personal safety”, she decided to abruptly end her internship. She flew back to Kolkata on 30 May 2011.

Because she claims that she perceived that there was no formal recourse available to her, she did not file an official complaint about the alleged harassment at the time.

In her PIL, X is asking the Supreme Court to institute a committee to inquire into her complaint against Kumar, and that a “permanent mechanism be set up to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment against all judicial officers, sitting or retired judges, whether while holding office or not”.

[Read the prayers and other parts of the PIL here]

Kumar can’t be removed from NGT: Parasaran

Meanwhile, solicitor general Mohan Parasaran told the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that Kumar could not be removed from his chairmanship of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), merely on the basis of the intern’s written complaint, reported The Hindu:

The NGT Act empowers the MoEF to remove Justice Kumar from the post of chairperson if it is found after an enquiry that he had abused his position so as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to public interest. It was in this context the opinion of the Solicitor-General was sought whether such removal proceedings could be initiated against him. However, Mr. Parasaran opined that since the allegations levelled by the intern pertained to when Justice Kumar was a sitting judge of the apex court, the provisions of the NGT Act would not be applicable to him.

According to The Hindu, Parasaran cited the case against former Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, where the government decided that any acts committed during judgeship could not be construed as misconduct in his subsequent office under the Human Rights Act.

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