Justice AK Ganguly, retired Supreme Court judge, is prima facie guilty of engaging in “unwelcome behaviour” with a law intern in a Delhi hotel in December last year.
A three-member committee of Supreme Court judges, investigating charges of sexual harassment against Ganguly, indicted him of “conduct of sexual nature” towards the woman intern, but dropped any further action since he was a retired judge on the day of the incident.
But for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Ganguly’s indictment could not come at a better time. She’s been at the receiving end of some of Ganguly’s recent actions as the chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
Ever since the controversy broke, Trinamool Congress has been demanding that Ganguly quit the chairman’s post. The development is sure to add more firepower to the party.
The Supreme Court report’s operative portion read: “We have carefully scrutinised the statement (written as well as oral) of (the intern), the affidavits of her three witnesses and the statement of Mr Justice (Retd) AK Ganguly. It appears to the Committee that in the evening on 24.12.2012, she had visited hotel Le Meridien where Mr Justice (Retd) AK Ganguly was staying to assist him in his work. This fact is not denied by Mr Justice (Retd) AK Ganguly in his statement.
“Further, the Committee is of the considered view that the statement of (the intern) both written and oral, prima facie discloses an act of unwelcome behaviour (unwelcome verbal/non-verbal conduct of sexual nature) by Mr Justice (Retd) AK Ganguly with her in the room in hotel Le Meridien on 24.12.2012 approximately between 8pm and 10.30pm.”
Ganguly, however, said: “It is not true. It cannot happen. I will not say anything on this until I receive the written copy of the findings.”
In Kolkata, a letter submitted by an NGO at the Hare Street police station demanding legal action against Ganguly has been recorded as a general diary, Kolkata Police clarified on Thursday.
“We have received a letter yesterday [Wednesday] from an NGO demanding action against former justice Ganguly, which has been recorded as GD,” joint commissioner of police (Crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh said. “We cannot act suo motu in this case. Also we don’t have any plan in this regard as yet.”
A two-page statement issued by the chief justice of India justice P Sathasivam disclosed the name of the intern, but in keeping with the legal requirements and media policy followed in such cases, dna is not mentioning her name.
After considering the report, a full bench of the apex court said: “Considering the fact that the said intern was not an intern on the roll of the Supreme Court and that the concerned judge had already demitted office on account of superannuation on the date of the incident, no further follow-up action is required by this court.”
Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising said: “The law is clear. One has to be above suspicion if holding a high position. In this case it has moved beyond suspicion. The committee has prima facie held he committed an offence of sexual nature. He must immediately resign.”
SC lawyer Rekha Aggarwal said: “Now the police can take suo moto action against the judge as the panel could do only this much. This is an internal committee and that’s the most they could have done.”
The CJI called a full court meeting of 30 judges on Thursday evening to deliberate upon the committee’s report.
The secretary general was directed to supply a copy of the committee’s report to the intern and justice Ganguly. Sathasivam formed the committee comprising justices RM Lodha, HL Dattu and Ranjana Prakash Desai.
The lawyer first alleged sexual harassment November 6, 2013, in a blog for Journal of Indian Law and Society. Subsequently, she repeated the allegation in an interview to Legally India website.
(With agency inputs)