Former judge of the Bombay high court and noted human rights activist Justice (retd.) Hosbet Suresh has demanded that Justice (retd) Swatanter Kumar, who is facing charges of sexual harassment, quit his post as chairman of the National Green Tribunal. He told dna that even though the allegations against Swatanter Kumar, levelled by an intern, have not been proved so far, he has lost the moral right to continue in office. “I don’t know if the allegations against him are true or false. But, morality demands that he step down immediately,” Suresh said.
He stated that had Justice (retd) A K Ganguly quit as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Tribunal as soon as the controversy involving him broke out, he may not have suffered as much damage as he has done now. “But, now that he has quit, I think that should end the matter,” he added.
Replying to a question, the ex-judge said it was up to the victim to pursue the case. “However, it appears that she is feeling vindicated by Ganguly’s resignation,” he added. Filing a case and going through cross-examination is not an easy thing. The woman goes through lot of trauma. “It is all okay for people to ask here to file a police complaint and continue her fight, but it is she who has to undergo all the trauma,” he added.
The ex-judge agreed that the two recent incidents involving former judges of the highest court of the land have caused tremendous embarrassment to the Indian judiciary as a whole. However, he wanted the current situation to be used to introduce a transparent system for the selection of judges. “Not only the track record of a lawyer should be considered before appointing him as a judge, but there should be a thorough check of his background before elevating a lawyer to the post of judge. The problem with the current system is that there is no transparency. The present problem involving Ganguly and Swatanter Kumar is because there was no transparency in their appointments,” he added.
Asked why the Goa police filed an FIR against Tarun Tejpal and in sharp contrast the Delhi police did not act similarly in the case of Ganguly, Suresh noted that the Goa police already had evidence in the form of Tejpal’s own confession and his email exchanges with Tehelka’s then managing editor Shoma Chaudhury. So there was a basis for filing an FIR against Ganguly. “In the case of Swatanter Kumar, I do not think any evidence has been produced so far. I learnt that the victim has filed an affidavit containing her allegations but these need to be inquired into before coming to any conclusion. The best thing to do under the circumstances is to probe the charges and find out if there is prima facie material against Swatanter Kumar. But Swatanter Kumar should quit irrespective of the outcome of the probe,” the noted former judge stated.
He reiterated that there should be a thorough background check before a judge is appointed.
When pointed out that already leading lawyers are reluctant to be appointed as judges and if there is an intense search of their background then even fewer lawyers would agree to be elevated to the bench, Suresh said only those who have something to hide may resist a thorough check of their background. “Recently, a judge of a Rajasthan court was accused of demanding dowry and torturing his daughter-in-law. How come such a person with such an absurd mindset got selected as a judge? This is something for all of us to ponder over. Had there been a system in place, then probably such persons would not have been appointed in the first place. A careful selection of judges is the need of the hour,” he added.