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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Judges & Sexual Crimes

S.O.S   e - Clarion  Of  Dalit  -  Weekly  Newspaper  On  Web 
Working  For  The  Rights  &  Survival  Of  The Oppressed
Editor: NAGARAJA.M.R… VOL.7 issue.46… .13/11/2013

Judge accused of molesting 2 rape survivors in UP

A sitting judicial magistrate sexually assaulted them
UP: Two rape victims claim that a sitting judicial magistrate sexually assaulted them. The girlsalleged that when they went to the magistrate’s chamber to give their statement, he allegedlymade them strip and molested them.One of the girls is a minor and the police have filed a complaint. The girls also claimed that the judge threatened them to not speak of the incident to anyone.Lawyers and the general public in Gonda launched a protest against the judge.

Law student sexually harassed by ex-Supreme Court judge:case is not unique, but speaking out is nearly impossible
  A law graduate who recently blogged about how a retired Supreme Court judge sexuallyassaulted her while she was his intern, says that the problem is real and not uncommon amongstthe judiciary and senior bar but that she sees few if any ways of tackling it.Stella James, who graduated from NUJS Kolkata this year and now works at the NGO NaturalJustice, Lawyers for Communities and the Environment, wrote about an alleged incident of physical, sexual assault by an unnamed, retired Supreme Court judge in late 2012.In a post that was published on the blog of the NUJS Journal of Indian Law and Society on 6November , she wrote about trying to come to terms with her experience of 24 December 2012,Christmas Eve, ironically against the backdrop of the then-ongoing Delhi gang rape protests:“In Delhi at that time, interning during the winter vacations of my final year in University, I dodgedpolice barricades and fatigue to go to the assistance of a highly reputed, recently retired SupremeCourt judge whom I was working under during my penultimate semester. For my supposed
diligence, I was rewarded with sexual assault (not physically injurious, but neverthelessviolating) from a man old enough to be my grandfather. I won’t go into the gory details, but sufficeit to say that long after I’d left the room, the memory remained, in fact, still remains, with me.”“Frankly I was really shocked,” James tells
Legally India
in an interview today. “There’s this thing:a person who is a Supreme Court judge - you don’t expect a Supreme Court judge to harasssomebody.”However, she says that her experience was neither uncommon, nor merely restricted to the judiciary: “I’ve heard of three other cases [of sexual harassment] by the same judge and I know of at least four other girls who’ve faced harassment from other judges - not perhaps as [bad asmine]: most of them were in the chambers of the judge and other people around, so it never getstoo bad.“A girl I know faced continuous sexual harassment throughout and sexual advances, and actuallyfaced troubles through her work because of it.” And she says she’s heard of Supreme Courtsenior counsel who have made passes at or have continuously harassed interns for longer periods. And though it is barely, if at all, known outside legal circles, it is a bit of an open secret or a “big joke” within the profession, particularly among clerks and women working in the Supreme Court,according to James.“People in the Supreme Court kind of know,” she says. “I did my internship through the college[recruitment process].” After beginning to share her experience with others in college, however,James found that others had also faced similar problems with the same judge.James’ reasons for not going public with the name of the judge or not lodging a formal complaintare complex, both morally and practically. On the one hand, she wrote in the blog post:“I bore, and still bear, no real ill-will towards the man, and had no desire to put his life’s work andreputation in question. On the other hand, I felt I had a responsibility to ensure that other younggirls were not put in a similar situation. But I have been unable to find a solution that allows that.Despite the heated public debates, despite a vast army of feminist vigilantes, despite newcriminal laws and sexual harassment laws, I have not found closure. The lack of such analternative led to my facing a crippling sense of intellectual and moral helplessness.”“I’d worked for him for six months and he treated me really well for six months and has beenreally kind to me,” James explains. “It was rather strange to me but I haven’t really forgiven himfor it… [But] I don’t know if I want to let myself - my impression of him as a person - be entirelydictated by that act… My leeway to him isn’t because he’s had a shining career and all that - partof it is that – [but] I’m not really sure I want to ruin somebody’s entire life because of that.”“Once it gets out in the open that he’s harassed other girls,” James says, “people will only look athim in that light.”However, James admits that one other strong reason, which was not really touched upon in her blog post, was concern about whether legal action would even have any effect. James hadmanaged to reach two of the other young women who were harassed by the same judge butneither were willing to come forward in public, mostly out of fear. “They don’t really want to jeopordise their careers,” James relates. “He’s a Supreme Court judge. If it’s going to be his wordagainst our word, he’s got more credibility, so to speak, of his words.” And she adds that if she by herself had wanted to take legal action, it would probably not havebeen possible. “There were no other witnesses, it was just me. It was a hotel room, [people] sawme walking in voluntarily, saw me walking out very calmly. I didn’t even walk out [with] fear. Atthat moment I felt I needed to walk out very calmly. I never mentioned anything the same day to anybody.”
 Apart from the evidentiary difficulty in proving the crime, the more serious problem for lawyers isperhaps inherent in the profession itself. James said she had never heard of any officialharassment complaints within the legal profession or against any judges. And while
Legally India
understands that sexual harassment complaints are at times made in law firms, most are handledvery delicately and quietly, with the firm encouraging informal resolution.In courts, it is even worse, speculates James, in that there is usually no one you can realisticallycomplain to, unlike in a company or college structure where harassed by a boss or lecturer, for example, and where she would have taken formal action in a similar incident. “Of course you canfile a criminal complaint [against a judge or lawyer] but that’s a whole different level.” And it isalso likely to impact your career.“I know a friend of mine who was sexually harassed at the Karnataka high court,” says James.That friend “wasn’t keeping it a secret” and telling lawyer friends about why she left the job withthat senior, and for two months afterwards she wasn’t able to find a job at the same court, beingasked about the incident in interviews after it dripped through the court’s grapevine (sheeventually found a job after deciding to evade the issue at interviews).The mindset in such cases often is, “she created trouble for him, she’ll create trouble for us”,speculates James.She says she was also skeptical about the Supreme Court’s recently started sexual harassmentcell and guidelines improving matters considerably. “It is often one person’s word against another person’s word, and a lot of people tend not to take the word” of a young lawyer against a senior advocate who’s made his reputation for 10 to 15 years. “There is a balance of power thing goingon here.”The only thing that James has been able to do, other than write the blog, is discuss the incidentwith members of her
alma mater 
, possibly de-listing the judge from the recruitment process sothat others are not exposed to similar experiences.While James does feel that colleges have a responsibility to protect their students, sheacknowledges that it could be difficult. The judge in question has been closely associated withher former college for a while by giving lectures and regularly taking on research assistants, sowhether faculty can take unequivocal action is not certain.Nevertheless, James says that potentially recruitment committees of colleges could make adifference. “I think at least – there should be some way, if not publicly then at least privately, kidswho go intern with a judge should know that this has happened before.”James says that she was able to come forward, albeit without disclosing names, because of her choice to work with an NGO with a possible view to entering academia at some point in her career.“I was a little afraid,” she admits. “The other friends I’ve spoken about, they are in positions wherethese judges play an important role [at the Supreme Court or teaching in a college and they] areafraid of jeopardising their careers. I don’t have such concerns here at Natural Justice - I have ateam that’s incredibly supportive, and three colleagues were first to read the blog post [beforepublication].“For me, the great thing is that I’m in an organisation where I know that if I come out in publicabout it, we are 25 people, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have the entire team behind me.”That lawyers elsewhere are unlikely or unable to protect their own from sexual harassment, is aproblem the profession will have to deal with sooner rather than later.

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