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SC inquiry panel dismisses charges against CJI; Provisions of Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, 1994 constitutional- Current Affairs

The apex court’s in-house panel stated that there was no substance in the allegations of the complainant.

May 7, 2019 14:38 IST
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Story 1- SC inquiry panel dismisses sexual harassment complaint against CJI

The Supreme Court on May 6, 2019 dismissed the complaint of sexual harassment against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The three-judge in-house inquiry panel headed by Justice S A Bobde stated that it did not find any substance in the allegations of the dismissed SC employee who had filed a sexual harassment complaint against the CJI.

The Judgement: Key Highlights

The apex court’s in-house panel stated that there was no substance in the allegations of the complainant.

However, the contents of the committee report, which is in accordance with the in-house procedure, will not be made public as per the apex court's 2003 judgment in Indira Jaising case.

The in-house panel submitted its report to the next senior-most judge competent to receive the report. A copy of the report was also sent to the CJI.

The in-house panel was headed by Justice SA Bobde. The other two judges on the panel were Justice Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.

The complainant had earlier walked out of the proceedings citing the panel’s refusal to allow her a lawyer, treat her with sensitivity.

Impact

The ruling by the in-house panel of the Supreme Court has provoked protests outside the apex court.

Women lawyers and members of some non-profit groups turned up outside the Supreme Court and shouted slogans.

The police has banned the gathering of any large group at the area in central Delhi's Lutyens' Zone.

The protestors claim that the procedure was totally unjust and that the victim should be given the report of the committee.

Background

The Supreme Court had on April 23, 2019 constituted a three-judge panel headed by Justice SA Bobde, the senior-most judge in the apex court after the Chief Justice of India (CJI), to inquire into the sexual harassment complaint by a former junior court assistant against CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

The complainant had worked at CJI Gogoi's home office in Delhi and the allegations were carried by news portals based on the affidavit by her.

Describing the allegations of sexual harassment against him as "unbelievable", the CJI had convened the extraordinary hearing at the Supreme Court during which he said a larger conspiracy was behind it and he would not stoop so low even to deny these allegations. The CJI had claimed that some "bigger force" wanted to "deactivate" the office of the CJI.

Justice NV Ramana was initially part of the three-judge panel but the complainant sought Justice Ramana's recusal while alleging that he had a close relationship with CJI Gogoi. Justice Ramana recused even though he strongly refuted the complainant's claims. Justice Indu Malhotra took Justice Ramana's place and this gave the panel a majority of women.

The complainant participated in the inquiry proceedings for two days and recorded her statement. However, on the third day, she opted out and complained that she was denied assistance of her advocate Vrinda Grover before the panel.

This was the first in-house inquiry on a sexual harassment complaint conducted in the Supreme Court and it was the first-ever time such an inquiry was conducted against the CJI.

Story 2- Provisions of Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, 1994 constitutional: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled on May 7, 2019 that the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act 1994 is social welfare legislation, conceived in light of the skewed sex ¬ratio of India.

The apex court stated that the dilution of the provisions of the Act or the Rules would only defeat its purpose, which is to prevent female foeticide and relegate the right to life of the girl child under Article 21 of the Constitution, to a mere formality.

The Judgment was delivered by an SC bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Saran.

The Judgement: Key Highlights

The court, while dismissing a petition filed in by the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), upheld the constitutional validity of Section 23(1) and Section 23(2) of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.

FOGSI had filed the petition in 2017 contending that even though the Act was enacted to prevent the determination of the sex of the foetus in the womb to prohibit female foeticide, it has failed to be implemented in its true letter and spirit.

The federation argued that the Act fails to distinguish between the criminal offences and the anomalies in paperwork like incomplete ‘F’ ­Forms, clerical mistakes such as writing NA or incomplete address, no mentioning of the date, objectionable pictures of Radha Krishna in sonography room,  faded notice board, striking out details in the Form ‘F’ etc.

They contended that the members of the Petitioner society are being wrongly accused under the provisions of the act even on account of clerical mistakes or unintentional mistakes in the record keeping.

The ambiguous wordings of the act are such that the members of the Petitioner society are liable to be charged for the heinous crime of the female foeticide and sex determination and that the members have undergone criminal prosecution.

Section 23(2) of Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, 1994

The section empowers the state medical council to suspend the registration of any doctor indefinitely who is reported by the appropriate authority for necessary action.

The Petitioner contended that this provision is ultra vires the constitution as it assumes the guilt of the doctor even before any trial by the competent court.

It further contended that the act fails to distinguish between the absence of intention and minor clerical errors.

 The form F does not fulfill the objective of what it was enacted for and any minor clerical mistake in form F may result in conviction of the doctor.

The Union of India, on the other hand, contended that the Petitioner is trying to mislead the court in the garb of social cause and that criminal activity cannot be declared to be ultra vires the constitution.

The Union submitted that the intention of the legislation while enacting this act was to uphold the rights of Woman and children and to completely abolish the practice of pre natal test of determination of the gender of the foetus which subsequently leads to female feoticide in majority cases.

It was contended by the government that the male-female ratio of the country is not equal and thus the centre is duty bound to protect the welfare of the children.

The form ‘F’ gives the insight into the reasons for conducting ultrasonography and incomplete Form ‘F’ raises presumption of doubt against the medical   practitioner   and   in   the   absence   of   Form   ‘F’,   the Appropriate Authority will have no means to supervise the usage of the ultrasonography machine and shall not be able to regulate the use of the technique.

Background

While delivering the ruling, the apex court also observed that the concern of the decline of female ratio is not only a matter of concern for India but also for the rest of the world.

The United Nations General Assembly had adopted Resolution No.52/106 on November 2, 1998 expressing concern about   pre­natal sex selection, female infanticide and female genital mutilation.

The Resolution also urged all States to enact and enforce legislation protecting girls from all forms of violence, including female infanticide and prenatal sex selection.

After the implementation of the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, 1994, the improvement in the sex ratio in India has been noticeable, going up to 933 in 2001 and 943 in 2011.

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