After sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi created tremors in the judicial fraternity, many Supreme Court judges have reportedly decided to ask for all-male staff at their residential offices. According to a Times of India report, in a meeting of SC judges and CJI Gogoi which happened on Monday morning “CJI Gogoi said he had received requests from judges for posting only male staff at their residential offices, to avoid a potential situation of the kind in which the CJI finds himself in”.

However since the 60% Supreme Court staff are women, there request is “difficult” to meet. Supreme Court lawyer Rashmi Singh spoke to SheThePeople.TV around this issue and said, “Ceasing to hire women junior court assistants is not the solution and if there are any serious allegations on anyone then they must go through the proper investigation. Today male judges stop hiring women; tomorrow male lawyers will stop recruiting female interns which is not the right example to set.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • CJI Gogoi said he had received requests from judges for posting only male staff at their residential offices, to avoid a potential situation of the kind in which the CJI finds himself in.
  • Judges or anyone who is accused of a crime must undergo trial or an investigation and sort it out, says Supreme Court lawyer Anita Pandey.
  • Such actions will also unsettle people’s faith in the judicial system.
  • Leaders of all companies are watching and we have seen it in the past that these kind of incidents have been used as precedents for future cases.

Ceasing to hire women junior court assistants is not the solution and if there are any serious allegations on anyone then they must go through the proper investigation. – Rashmi Singh

Instead of being a corrective measure it curtails opportunities for women

Instead of being a corrective measure all it does is curtailing opportunities for women, added Singh. She also said that sexual harassment at workplace can happen in any sector and it solely depends on the employer as to what kind of environment they provide to their female employees. “Secondly if men start to prohibit women like this then in future women will stop raising their voice against injustice just like it has been for long in the past,” she stated.

Another SC lawyer Anita Pandey also commented on this and said that the SC judges should not generalize it because if the issue has come from a lady staff, it may come from a female junior judge too someday so are not going to stop inducting them as well?  She reiterated Singh’s statement that judges or anyone who is accused of a crime must undergo trial or an investigation and sort it out.

Even women lawyers have these experiences and silently endure it because they know that it will become more difficult in the profession if they speak up about it. – Anita Pandey

“But generalizing in the manner of not having women staff at home is not justified coming from such senior judges. It is only now that people have started speaking up about it but imagine that not many people even to date have revealed their experience of sexual harassment. Even women lawyers have these experiences and silently endure it because they know that it will become more difficult in the profession if they speak up about it. So the judges must not discourage women from coming out and talking about it. Then there is a proper legal way to investigate and the truth anyway comes out always,” said Pandey.

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Talking about how it matters for the judiciary to take corrective action to tackle sexual harassment in the system, Pandey noted that they did not even have a sexual harassment committee in the Supreme Court till about half a decade back. “If in the judgment the SC is asking all the institutions to constitute an internal complaints committee then it is high time we must look within ourselves and take the right action,” she added.

Judiciary must not give such statements in public neither should they implement such regulations because it really discourages all the women who want to speak up and they will think that they can never come out about it, said Pandey.

If in the judgment the SC is asking all the institutions to constitute an internal complaints committee then it is high time we must look within ourselves and take the right action. – Anita Pandey

Impact On workplace diversity

Singh added to this argument saying that such actions will also unsettle people’s faith in the judicial system as they will think if the judiciary itself can terminate women staffers or show a certain kind of bias then it is okay for any other professional institution to do it too.

On the issue of gender disparity in the judiciary and how this action can have grave impact on workplace diversity, she added if they would have told me that I cannot take up the job of junior court assistant earlier in my career then how would I have been able to climb up the ladder and reach a higher position today.

Founder of Ungender, Pallavi Pareek, who works in the space of advocacy and implementation of laws against sexual harassment at workplace in the corporate sector, said that it is a “sad reality”. “Today I don’t know what to say to companies because if the matter in Supreme Court is being handled in such a manner then how do we expect corporate to realign itself to make a safe place for women to work in,” she said adding that right now leaders of all companies are watching and we have seen it in the past that these kind of incidents have been used as precedents for future cases.

Today I don’t know what to say to companies because if the matter in Supreme Court is being handled in such a manner then how do we expect corporate to realign itself to make a safe place for women to work in. – Pallavi Pareek

“The very fact that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was introduced was to ensure that women are able to take up any profession that they choose and that they don’t have to worry about their safety. On the other hand, it became the employers’ responsibility to ensure women’s safety and that’s why this law made a difference. As employers could no longer say that they cannot hire women because of late hours, safety issue etc. because it is their responsibility so by taking a decision to not hire women SC judges are nullifying the whole premise of the law,” said Pareek.

While this is story is still developing, we would be closely watching it to explore the gender based issues associated with it.

Picture Credit- th.thgim.com

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