The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will consider reappointing a former woman judicial officer who is seeking reinstatement after having resigned following an inquiry into her allegations of sexual harassment against a Madhya Pradesh High Court judge.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde asked senior lawyer Ravindra Shrivastava, appearing for the Registrar General of the MP High Court, to seek instruction with regard to the possibility of reinstating the former woman judicial officer, who has retired, within four weeks.
Meanwhile, Shrivastava opposed her plea and submitted that the Registrar General be heard before passing any order.
The woman had moved the apex court seeking that the administrative order of January 11, 2017, passed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissing her application for reinstatement into the Madhya Pradesh Higher Judicial Services, should be set aside.
In an attempt to put a closure and a "peaceful conclusion" of her grievance, the bench on Wednesday posed a query to her lawyer Indira Jaising and said, "Tell me one thing, whether your client was agreeable for appointment under jurisdiction of some other high courts. We will reinstate her".
Jaising replied that her client may be considered for reinstatement as an additional district judge in northern part of India without losing the seniority. She added that the former judge was wiling to forgo the salary and other benefits
"Madhya Pradesh is connected to five states. We will consider this. Let me talk to chief justices of high courts," the bench said.
"We give you an option within MP. Is there any particular place in Madhya Pradesh where she would like to go," the bench asked, adding that "we will reinstate her in Madhya Pradesh first then only she can be transferred to (the jurisdiction of other HC)."
Jaising referred to the findings of the Judges Inquiry Committee and said that her transfer from Gwalior to Sidhi district in the state was "illegal" as her daughter was then appearing for the 12th board examination and moreover, her ACR has been "extraordinary".
"What are the consequences of transfers. Even if she was transferred rightly, in Madhya Pradesh, transfer is for three years. She would have been transferred after three years again...We are not on what is right or wrong. We do not see any useful purpose getting served with both sides maintaining the same earlier stand," the bench said, adding that now there was a new Chief Justice in the MP HC.
The bench made clear that after reinstatement, it would consider to transfer her to jurisdiction of some other high court.
Shrivastava, however, opposed the submissions of Jaising and said that the woman judicial officer had resigned voluntarily and at no point she took back her resignation.
The bench seemed to be determined to put the curtains down on the dispute and asked the counsel for the Registrar General of the high court, which had earlier rejected the request of reinstatement, to take instruction and apprise it on March 16, the next date of hearing.
"I must compliment you and your attitude. It is the right attitude to have in such situations. Why get into all this," the bench told Jaising, who agreed to its proposals.
Earlier, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had told the top court that the former woman judicial officer cannot be reinstated.
The high court judge, against whom sexual harassment complaint was made by her, was later given a clean chit in December 2017 by a Rajya Sabha-appointed panel which had probed the allegations.
The woman, in her plea, has said that the high court had ignored the categorical finding in the report of the Judges Inquiry Committee dated December 15, 2017, terming the petitioner's resignation dated July 15, 2014 from her post of Additional District Judge "unbearable circumstances having no other option".
The plea has added that the Judges Inquiry Committee had opined that "the petitioner be reinstated in service since her resignation was tendered under coercion".
A motion of impeachment was admitted against the high court judge after 58 members of Rajya Sabha supported the woman's case.
The report of the panel comprising Supreme Court judge R Bhanumathi, Justice Manjula Chellur (then Bombay High Court judge) and jurist K K Venugopal (now Attorney General for India) had given a clean chit to the high court judge was tabled before the Rajya Sabha on December 15, 2017.
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