A panel appointed by the Rajya Sabha to look into the impeachment report of Justice Gangele, High Court Judge of Madhya Pradesh who had allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him made by a judicial officer, has given him a clean chit. The committee constituted under the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, was tabled in the House on Friday(December 15th).
The panel comprised of Supreme Court judge R. Bhanumathi, Justice Manjula Chellur and Senior Advocate K.K. Venugopal, was set up in April 2015 by the then Rajya Sabha Chairman, Hamid Ansari, after admitting a motion supported by 58 members to impeach Justice S.K. Gangele. The report held that the sexual harassment charges “have not been proved.”
The complainant was posted as Additional District Sessions Judge in Gwalior, where Justice Gangele was in charge of assessing her work. She has cited four separate instances of sexual harassment, where the accused judge allegedly made lewd remarks at her in a social setting. She also alleged that she received messages from the judge through the District Registrar, asking her to meet him at his residence.
Additionally, she alleged that the accused was instrumental in her being transferred to a remote area of Sidhi for not submitting to his demands for sexual favours. Her request to delay the transfer on the grounds of her daughter sitting for Class 12 board examination was dismissed. Consequently she was forced to resign from her post.
In 2014 the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court constituted a two-member Committee to look into the allegations against Justice Gangele. However, the complainant had challenged the constitution of this Committee in the Supreme Court, which held that the role of the Chief Justice of the High Court is limited to the first stage of the investigative process, and that he had exceeded the authority vested in him under the “In-House Procedure”.
Subsequently, the apex court constituted a three-member Committee of Justice DY Chandrachud (then Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court), former Delhi High Court Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Ajay Rastogi of the Rajasthan High Court. This Committee concluded that the material on record was insufficient to establish the charge of sexual harassment.
Following this, in 2015, Chairman of Rajya Sabha and then Vice President of India Hamid Ansari admitted an impeachment motion in the Upper House. This was following a motion signed by more than 50 members of the RS calling for the impeachment of the judge on the grounds of sexual harassment. The motion was brought to the fore my MPs Sitaram Yechury, Derek O’Brien, Sharad Yadav and others.
In the proceedings before the Committee, the accused judge denied the allegations. Justice Gangele was represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising appeared for the complainant, whereas Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain was appointed as Amicus Curiae.
Read the committee report here.
Read the written submissions filed on behalf of the complainant here.