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MP judge sex harass case: SC may agree to review relevance of its in-house procedures

In the Additional District and Sessions Judge, ‘X’ v. Supreme Court of India Through Secretary General And Anr., which came up before the bench comprising justices JS Khehar and Rohinton Nariman on 16 December, the petitioner’s counsel, Indira Jaising raised the relevance of the in-house committee report in establishing the misconduct of a judge.


In this case, a former Additional District and Sessions Judge, “X” had accused the Madhya Pradesh high court judge, SK Gangele of sexual harassment. [Although the Supreme Court’s judgment delivered in another aspect of the same case last year refrains from naming the Judge, LI reveals the name, as the same is already in the public domain]

First, a two-Judge committee was constituted

by the Madhya Pradesh high court Chief Justice, MR Khanwilkar to probe the allegations. The Supreme Court found in this judgment delivered last December

that Justice Khanwilkar exceeded the authority vested in him under the “in-house procedure”, as he was only expected to determine whether a prima facie case was made out requiring a deeper probe. This resulted in the court divesting Justice Khanwilkar of any role in arriving at even prima facie satisfaction of substance in the allegations, as envisaged in the in-house procedure. It also asked him to divest the accused judge of administrative and supervisory role in the high court.

Subsequently, the then CJI, Dattu set up a panel comprising the then Chief Justice of Karnataka, DH Waghela to hold the prima facie inquiry. As this panel recommended a “deeper probe”, Justice Dattu set up the three-judge committee headed by the Chief Justice of Allahabad high court, Justice Chandrachud, the Delhi high court chief justice, Rohini and a judge of the Rajasthan high court, Justice Ajay Rastogi. This committee found ‘insufficient evidence’ against Justice Gangele.

In her second petition before the Supreme Court, ‘X’ challenged the report of this three-Judge committee, on the ground that it did not follow the principles of natural justice. It is this petition which came up for hearing on 16 December before Justices Khehar-Nariman bench.

Confidential report

At the outset, Justice Rohinton Nariman asked Jaising to explain whether anything survived in this case, when the Rajya Sabha Chairman, Hamid Ansari has set up a three-member panel to investigate the allegations. The committee, headed by Supreme Court judge, Justice Vikramajit Sen, includes Chief Justice of Calcutta high court, justice Manjula Chellur and senior advocate, KK Venugopal. Justice Nariman’s query was that she already got the relief in the form of this statutory committee, as the in-house committee report, which is confidential, lacked the statutory status. Jaising contested this view saying the in-house committee, owed its legitimacy from the Supreme Court’s judgment, and its findings may influence any subsequent proceedings.

The bench then said as the report is confidential, there is no likelihood of any other forum taking note of its contents, and therefore, the petition seeking to set aside the report is devoid of merits. Secondly, even if the in-house committee found the judge guilty, then the result would be that the CJI would have recommended to Parliament to initiate impeachment proceedings against the judge. When this result has already been achieved with Ansari constituting a committee, nothing survived in the petition, the bench pointed out to her.

When Jaising pressed her plea, the bench then agreed to pass an order saying the contents of the in-house committee report would not adversely affect the accused or the respondent in any future legal proceedings in the matter.

At this stage, Jaising raised the issue of relevance of in-house committee reports in general, and said the court might have to consider this aspect in future. To this, the bench agreed to do so, in the event of such a contingency arising in future, in not in this case.

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