Judicial Officer Exposes Workpla

A Woman Judicial Officer’s Complaint Reveals Systemic Issues including of sexual harassment at workplace.A Woman Judicial Officer’s Complaint Reveals Systemic Issues including of sexual harassment at workplace.

A closer examination of the Indian judicial system has been prompted by the recent revelation of alleged sexual harassment to the Chief Justice of India through an open letter from a woman civil judge.

Judicial Officer’s Complaint via the Letter

The female judge, who wished to remain anonymous, talked about being abused in public and being the target of alleged sexual harassment. She alleges that a district judge had asked her to meet him at night. She also stated in that letter her displeasure with the investigation, citing witnesses who were the accused district judge’s direct subordinates as a possible conflict of interest. She mentioned that her request that the accused judge be moved during the investigation was declined every time.

She asserted that during her past posting close to Lucknow, she had allegedly suffered verbal and sexual harassment at the hands of the accused judge. Her ordeal started 6 months before she made her disclosure public. Complaints to the administrative judge and Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court were among the avenues through which she attempted to obtain remedy within the system but unfortunately those were unsuccessful. She approached the Internal Complaints Committee (IC) in July 2023; however, she was further disappointed by the lack of sensitivity and the perpetual delay.

She writes in her letter that became public that “I have no will to live anymore. I have been rendered to a Walking Corpse in the last year and a half. There is no purpose in carrying this soulless and lifeless body around anymore. There is no purpose left in my life. Kindly permit me to end my life in a dignified way.”

In the letter she also stated that she had filed a petition before the Supreme Court on December 4, seeking intervention in a case where she alleged misconduct by a district judge. The Supreme Court bench, led by Justice Hrishikesh Roy, declined to issue a judicial order, stating that an Internal Complaints Committee (IC) was already reviewing her complaint. The IC had been formed based on her complaint, and a resolution was pending Chief Justice approval. The woman judge, expressing dissatisfaction, revealed in a public letter that her case was dismissed by the Supreme Court after an eight-second hearing. She had reported the district judge’s alleged misconduct to the Allahabad High Court earlier, and after facing delays, she filed a complaint with the High court’s IC in July 2023. She criticized the IC’s proposed inquiry, citing a lack of impartiality due to the close relationship between the witnesses and the district judge.

Taking cognizance of this issue, D.Y. Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India, instructed the Supreme Court Registry to ask the Allahabad High Court for a status report. This intervention, requesting a report from the Allahabad HC, emphasizes the necessity of looking into the current procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment within the legal system.


It is pertinent to mention here that complaints against judges can be investigated by the respective High court or the Supreme Court through an in-house procedure. Following Supreme Court guidelines, grievances against judicial officers must be submitted on a sworn affidavit with verifiable facts to the registrar general of the relevant high court. The High Court administration, under the direction of its Chief Justice and administrative judge, then initiates an inquiry based on the charges outlined in the affidavit.

Additionally, each High Court in India has established rules that encompass a range of professional conduct expectations for judges and judicial officials across the state. Notably, these rules explicitly include sexual harassment as a form of misconduct. In cases where disciplinary action is warranted, the prescribed procedure for inquiry aligns with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. Accordingly, in this particular case the aggrieved judge filed a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee (IC) of the Allahabad High Court, seeking redress for alleged misconduct. However, she expressed dissatisfaction, stating that the proposed inquiry was a “farce and a sham,” casting doubt on its fairness and efficacy in her public letter.

Conclusion

This ongoing case particularly raises important questions about the need for systemic changes to guarantee a more impartial environment for aggrieved filing complaints. This judge’s choice to talk publicly about her experience emphasizes how critical it is to address structural problems and develop an environment within the judiciary where justice is paramount.

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