Supreme Court: No Relief For Delhi Judicial Officer On Sexual Harassment Row

The Supreme Court has refused to come to the rescue of a Delhi judicial officer suspended for sexual harassment charges levelled by a female court employee. The officer had questioned the power of the Delhi High Court to issue such a major punishment into the pending inquiry of the complaint.

Upholding the action of the Delhi High Court, the apex bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Navin Sinha held that the Full Court decision of July 13, 2016 to direct suspension of the officer, PS Malik did not suffer any wrong. Later an Inquiry Committee headed by a sitting Delhi HC judge constituted under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 found the allegations to be true and submitted a copy of its report on March 9, 2018 to the Full Court. While the sexual harassment probe against him is still pending, Malik approached the apex court questioning the power and authority of the High Court to suspend him.

The incident of sexual harassment dated back to July 5, 2016. The accused judicial officer was an Additional District Judge posted at Dwarka courts in Delhi. A junior Judicial Assistant working in his court alleged sexual harassment against the officer and forwarded her complaint to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court for appropriate action. The victim claimed she came to work in the court of the accused officer as Ahlmad (judicial assistant) since May 18, 2015 and continued at this post till May 18, 2016. Within a week, she renewed her complaint to the Delhi High Court on July 11, 2016.

Two days later, the Full Court of High Court met and resolved, “The Judicial Officer be placed under suspension with immediate effect pending disciplinary proceeding contemplated against him.” Initially a preliminary report was prepared and given to the Full Court based on which an Inquiry Committee was formed. This Committee examined the statements of the victim and the officer in question and arrived at its conclusion of guilt in its final report of March 2018. On April 25, 2018 the High Court forwarded the inquiry report to the accused officer seeking his written submissions. The officer claimed the decision against him was taken without hearing and denying him the preliminary inquiry report. Also, Delhi High Court does not have jurisdiction to suspend as the Governor has this power under Delhi Higher Judicial Service Rules, 1970 and the All India Services Rules.

But the apex court held, “We are of the view that there is no error in the decision of the Full Court to suspend the petitioner and initiate the inquiry proceedings against the petitioner.” It noted that the complaints under the 2013 Act aimed at protecting the dignity of women at workplace. With the probe yet not over, the Court held that the final report alone would be sufficient for the officer to defend himself.

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