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Ex-judge contests slur

- No need to exit green tribunal: Solicitor-general

New Delhi, Feb. 13: Former Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar today filed an affidavit in the court denying allegations of sexually harassing an intern, terming the claims “false” and the result of a “planned conspiracy”.

This is possibly the first time that a former apex court judge has filed such an affidavit proclaiming his innocence in the same court where he once passed a number of judgments and directives.

The filing came on a day solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran told The Telegraph he had advised the Centre that whatever the allegations, Kumar cannot be removed from his present post as the chairman of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Parasaran said he had told the Centre the allegations pertained to Kumar’s tenure as a sitting judge and not to his current role as the head of the NGT, which deals exclusively with environment-related cases.

Parasaran said that under the NGT Act, its chairperson or a member can be removed for misconduct only if he/she is accused of irregularities as the tribunal chief.

The solicitor-general cited the stand taken earlier by the Centre in the Supreme Court on a plea to remove former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) over allegations of amassing assets.

The Centre had said the allegations pertained to the period when Balakrishnan headed the court and not to his tenure as the NHRC chief.

In Justice Kumar’s matter, his affidavit filed today questioned the maintainability of the petition filed by the victim in the court. “The respondent (Justice Kumar) specifically denies all the allegations made by the petitioner in regard to the alleged incidents of sexual harassment. Such allegations are not only malicious but are intended to malign the image of the respondent.”

Kumar’s affidavit said “that the allegations, besides being false to the knowledge of the maker, are the result of a planned conspiracy”. The document referred to a January 15 apex court suggestion on whether a permanent mechanism should be set up to deal with all such complaints in the future.

Justice Kumar said he believed the court had taken “the correct legal position” on December 5, 2013, in saying it had no power to deal with allegations against former judges. That matter pertained to another former judge, Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, who had been accused of having sexually harassed an intern after his retirement.

In the complaint against Justice Kumar, a bench headed by current Chief Justice P. Sathasivam had refrained from ordering any probe. It sought responses from him, the Centre and the attorney-general on the mechanism to tackle complaints against all judges, sitting or retired.