Shaking the faith in the system

When an intern of a former Supreme Court judge alleged sexual harassment by him, the faith in the good old judicial system started to shake.

It isn’t easy to be the repository of wisdom and justice in India. In a nation where trust is scarce the Supreme Court [and lower courts] tends to be flooded with disputes. The backlog of cases is embarrassing but when they get down to it, the judges of the Supreme Court often get it right.

From a clean-up of Indian politics [still in the works] to cleaning up the air [with the life-altering Delhi CNG judgment], the Supreme Court virtually runs the country. There have been dubious moments [like during Emergency] but that comes with the territory.

The apex court has also taken some historic judgment on the betterment of the society and safety of the social environment which includes safety of women in this country. But when an intern of a former Supreme Court judge alleged sexual harassment by him, this faith started to shake.

Irony was that the sexual harassment took place at a time when the whole of the country had erupted in mass protests over the December 16 gang rape.

The sensational charge was made by the girl in her blog via ‘Journal of Indian Law and Society’ on November 6 and was later repeated in an interview to the website ‘Legally India’. It was good to see that the girl accepted her silence as “cowardice” but now she will fight a legal battle against the judge.

Her statement that she kept mum because of the high position the judge enjoyed and that she was too stunned and surprised at the time to even react with anger, is the story of every girl who has ever been sexually harassed. Seems we have come full circle despite our concerns and presence of stronger laws.

Nobody cares, not even a Supreme Court judge.

An anti-sexual harassment committee was set up by the July 17 order of a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir. The apex court has framed regulations to protect women lawyers from sexual harassment at the hands of male counterparts within the court complex, including inside chambers within the court precincts.

The bench had taken a broader definition of “sexual harassment” to include sending of undesirable, sexually coloured text or voice messages or sexually explicit material to women advocates and also stalking. Complaints against sexual harassment are to be heard by a Gender Sensitization and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC), which is headed by a sitting SC judge.

The probe in this case will be carried out by a three member committee by the apex court which includes RM Lodha, HL Dattu and Ranjana P Desai. On November 18, the young lawyer will appear before this committee.

The Supreme Court is not divine. It is human; and a reason to mostly feel proud. But it will be better if the human hands who man this body comply with the laws they make. Not only it will set a good example, it will also give people something to trust.

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