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TOO SOLICITOUS

Who judges an ex-judge? The rising waves of murky water around the allegation of sexual harassment against a former Supreme Court judge seem to have obliterated the clear lines of correct procedure. Otherwise it is difficult to explain the conduct of the additional solicitor-general, Indira Jaising, who seems to be ignoring the demands of professional decorum appropriate to her position. In the perception of the public, she is the legal voice of the government. Neither the government nor its senior officer of law can be seen to be taking sides. The ugliness of the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the case is already touched by suspicions of political interest. Yet Ms Jaising has left no one in any doubt as to which side she is taking. That she is demanding the resignation of Ashok Ganguly, the accused in the complaint, as chair of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission could have been explained by suggesting that the ASG feels it would be more dignified both for Mr Ganguly and the commission if he did so, especially since the three-judge panel of inquiry set up by the Supreme Court found him guilty of “unwelcome behaviour”. Although that, too, is not for the ASG to say, and even less so as a warning. However, Ms Jaising has gone much further. She has made clear to the media her belief in the guilt of Mr Ganguly before it has been proved in court, and has also made public the confidential affidavit given by the complainant to the three-judge panel. According to Ms Jaising, she felt compelled to do this because she saw powerful sections were backing the retired judge. Whether or not she had the intern’s permission to do so, as she claims she had, is beside the point. The only point here is that a government officer of the law has made a confidential court document public not for any legal reason but in a self-declared bout of exasperated passion. Legal rigour had nothing to do with it.

Campaigning for rights is a noble activity. Ms Jaising is undoubtedly an excellent campaigner. But when campaigning requires taking sides in an unproven case, the task cannot be taken up by a government lawyer. The dignity and credibility of the judiciary or the human rights body may have been endangered, but in her concern for that, the ASG seems to have become indifferent to her own. The situation bristles with improprieties: some yet to be proven, and some glaringly obvious.