India's highest court has indicted one of its former judges on charges of sexual harassment, in yet another prominent case following close on the heels of a sexual-assault case against a well-known editor.
A three-judge committee of the Supreme Court accepted on Thursday the charge made by a law intern that she had been sexually harassed by retired judge AK Ganguly on December 24, 2012, at a luxury hotel in the capital New Delhi.
The incident happened at a time when Delhi and the country was in uproar over the gang-rape of a physiotherapy student a week earlier.
Ganguly, who heads the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, has been under pressure from various political parties to step down following the publicising of his name as the accused by the Supreme Court a few days ago.
The committee said it found a ring of truth in the law graduate's allegation that he had subjected her to what it called "unwelcome sexual behaviour".
Under Indian laws, the name of the victim cannot be disclosed.
The girl, a fresh graduate from the high-ranking National University of Juridical Sciences based in Kolkata, in the eastern West Bengal state, stated in her accusation that Ganguly asked her to double up as a research assistant when he was inquiring into violence between two Kolkata football clubs.
Ganguly insisted she meet him at the Le Meridien Hotel in Delhi for a discussion with football officials in his room.
Once the meeting was through and the officials left, Ganguly asked the girl to stay back, offered her wine and had a few glasses himself, the girl told the court investigators.
Giving reasons for offering the wine, he told the girl it was the practice to have wine as it was Christmas Eve.
Advances despite protests
Ganguly then made advances towards her despite her protests.
The girl managed to open the door and rush out. At this point, Ganguly ran behind her into the corridor apologising profusely, reports said quoting her complaint.
He did not deny he had invited her to his room for the meeting but said he had no intention of sexually harassing her. He said the charge had shocked him, and he countered the accusation.
The Supreme Court’s fact-finding committee, after hearing both over the last few weeks, said the incident revealed "an act of unwelcome behaviour" by Ganguly.
The committee, however, said there would be no further action against him in the Supreme Court.
According to the investigators, since Ganguly had already retired from his post as judge, and the law intern was not a court employee, they would not proceed further on the issue.
The victim is free to file a police complaint and proceed as per Indian penal laws against Ganguly if she wishes.
Following the December 16 gang-rape in Delhi, and the consequent nationwide uproar, Indian laws dealing with rape and sexual assault were tightened considerably. The top editor of Tehelka magazine, Tarun Tejpal, is in jail on charges of sexually molesting a junior colleage.