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Judge ‘harass’ row

New Delhi, Aug. 7: A lawyers’ body has joined issue with a Gwalior district judge’s allegation of being transferred for refusing a high court senior’s sexual advances, alleging the complainant was shifted because she kept granting anticipatory bail in gang-rape and child abuse cases.

The woman additional district judge has claimed she was forced to quit her job last month because she had been transferred to remote Sidhi after she rebuffed the advances of Justice S.K. Gangele of the Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court.

But the state high court bar association that represents all the lawyers practising before the Gwalior bench has now written to Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha that the complainant had been transferred on administrative grounds.

It said the woman judge had granted anticipatory bail in 18 gang-rape and child-abuse cases even before the medical examination of the alleged victims. The letter added that as a rule, even regular bail was not granted easily in such serous cases.

It said the Gwalior district judge --- the woman judge’s boss --- reported the matter to the principal registrar (vigilance) and wrote two letters to the registrar-general of the high court about the woman judge’s “misbehaviour”.

“Thereafter, the matter was inquired (into) primar(il)y by (the) registrar-general” who “placed the matter before the committee of transfer” made up of Justices Ajit Singh and Rajendra Menon, the letter said.

“On administrative grounds, (the woman judge) was transferred from Gwalior to Sidhi.”

The letter sought to furnish specific details of the purported grant of anticipatory bail in the 18 cases it had cited.

When The Telegraph contacted the woman judge, she disconnected the line after hearing the allegations. When this newspaper called again, her phone was switched off.

Madhya Pradesh chief justice A.M. Khanwilkar declined to comment on the allegations against the woman judge or to confirm whether any report on her alleged misconduct had been sent to the CJI.

He said it would be improper to comment on a matter whose various aspects were under investigation.

Justice Gangele has rejected the allegations, saying he is willing to face the death penalty if the allegations are found true.

In her resignation letter of July 15, sources said, the woman judge had not accused Justice Gangele of sexual harassment but made the charges in subsequent letters to the President and Union law minister.

She claimed she had received “excellent and outstanding” appraisals at the beginning of the year, and accused district judge Kamal Singh Thakur and district judge (inspection) Rajeev Sharma of pressuring her to grant the sexual favours allegedly sought by Justice Gangele.

Former additional solicitor-general Indira Jaising, who has demanded a probe and suspension of Justice Gangele, said she had no comments about the allegations against the complainant.

“If they (the bar association) have written to the CJI, let them do it. What can I comment on it?” she asked after asking this correspondent to read the letter’s contents out to her over the phone.

Chief Justice Lodha was not available for comment.

Lawyer-activist Manohar Lal Sharma has petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a judicial probe into the woman judge’s allegations and asking that Justice Gangele be divested of work until the completion of the inquiry.

The woman judge has alleged that Justice Gangele had asked her to “perform dance on an item song”, sending the message through the district registrar.

When she excused herself on the pretext of her daughter’s birthday, he allegedly replied that he had “missed the opportunity of viewing a sexy and beautiful figure dancing on the floor and that he is desperate to see the same”.