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Swatanter Kumar submits affidavit ahead of Intern X’s SC hearing tomorrow | Read X’s PIL

X calls for Supreme Court to act
X calls for Supreme Court to act
Legally India has obtained a copy of the public interest litigation filed by anonymous lawyer X, a former intern of ex-Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar, whose case will again get heard by the Supreme Court tomorrow (14 February).

The respondents in X’s PIL are the Supreme Court, via its secretary general; Kumar, who is currently chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT); and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which is the NGT’s nodal ministry.

The matter is listed as item number 32 in the Chief Justice of India’s (CJI) court with an intervention by the original petitioners in the landmark Vishaka judgment, in which the Supreme Court made redressal mechanisms for sexual harassment in the workplace mandatory in 1997.

Kumar affidavit: Matter sub-judice

According to sources with knowledge of the matter, Kumar submitted an affidavit to the parties yesterday, objecting to the PIL on various grounds.

In particular, it is understood that Kumar argued that intern X’s petition was not maintainable, citing the Supreme Court’s December full court decision not to investigate the intern’s complaint because Kumar was by now retired.

Kumar also argued that the matter was sub-judice because of a currently ongoing Delhi high court defamation suit for Rs 5 crores he had filed against X and three media organisations. The Delhi high court ordered all media to be unequivocal in headlines that the sexual harassment charge against Kumar was a mere allegation, and restrained the three media organisation defendants from publishing Kumar’s photograph.

Legally India has reached out for comment to Kumar's lawyers, Karanjawala & Co, but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.

X’s PIL wants action from court

In the PIL the court has briefed senior counsel PP Rao and Fali Nariman as amicus curiae to investigate whether the Supreme Court can investigate complaints against sitting judges.

The intern alleged that Kumar had sexually harassed her while she was his intern as a student in 2011, but the Supreme Court refused to act on her complaint in December 2013, which followed the Supreme Court holding an internal inquiry into the allegations against former Supreme Court Justice AK Ganguly.

The inquiry ultimately held that the first intern’s testimony had disclosed a prima facie incident of “verbal/non-verbal sexual conduct” by Ganguly, but it declined to take any other action. Ganguly later resigned as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, as a presidential reference to remove him from the post for misconduct was about to be submitted to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had instituted a sexual harassment cell in November 2013, shortly after Legally India had first reported the allegations against an unnamed judge, who was later identified as Ganguly. While the court’s harassment cell has heard at least two complaints since starting, according to its annual report, it does not have the power to entertain complaints against judges.

In November, senior advocate Indira Jaising had submitted an amicus curiae petition to the Supreme Court, demanding that it comply with the Vishaka guidelines internally.

In her PIL, intern X asked the Supreme Court:

(a) For an appropriate Writ Order or direction calling for the records of the Resolution dated 05.12.2013 passed by the Full Court of the Supreme Court on its administrative side and the communication dated 13.12.2013 and after going through the same, quash and set aside the same.

(b) For an appropriate Writ Order or direction directing that a appropriately constituted committee headed by a woman with an external member be set up to enquire into the complaint filed by the Petitioner,in the form of an Affidavit annexed hereto;

(c) For a declaration that the rights of the Petitioner have been violated under Articles14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India;

(d) For an appropriate Writ Order or direction directing 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 PIL (substantive allegations redacted):

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