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SC Orders Reinstatement of Woman Judicial Officer, Says Resignation Can't Be Construed as Voluntary

The top court, however, said that she would not be entitled to back wages.

The top court, however, said that she would not be entitled to back wages.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai set aside the order accepting her resignation and directed the Madhya Pradesh High Court to reinstate her as additional district judge.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered reinstatement of a former Madhya Pradesh woman judicial officer, who resigned in 2014 following an inquiry into her allegations of sexual harassment against a high court judge, saying her resignation cannot be construed to be voluntary.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai set aside the order accepting her resignation and directed the Madhya Pradesh High Court to reinstate her as additional district judge.

The top court, however, said that she would not be entitled to back wages. "We hold and declare that the petitioner's resignation from the post of Additional District and Sessions Judge, Gwalior dated July 15, 2014 cannot be construed to be voluntary and order dated July 17, 2014 … accepting resignation of the petitioner is quashed and set aside.

"The Respondents are directed to reinstate the Petitioner forthwith as ADJ, though the petitioner would not be entitled to back wages, should be entitled to continuity in services with all consequential benefits w.e.f. July 15, 2014," the bench said. Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the woman, had submitted that the judicial officer was coerced and compelled to resign.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Registrar General of the high court, had told the top court that ground of "hostile work environment" which allegedly forced her to tender resignation is being raised four years after her allegations of sexual harassment. 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 that 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 added that the Judges Inquiry Committee had opined that "the petitioner be reinstated to 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 then 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 and was tabled before the Rajya Sabha on December 15, 2017.

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first published:February 10, 2022, 13:28 IST