Two days after a group of lawyers wrote to the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Justice Vijaya Tahilramani, protesting Justice Vaidyanathan’s remarks on a recent judgment, the latter judge has withdrawn his remarks. While passing the verdict in a case where a professor of the Madras Christian College was accused of sexual harassment, Justice Vaidyanathan had made obsservations on how women ‘misuse’ laws like the dowry prohibition laws to ‘teach a lesson’ to men.
On August 16, the judge dismissed a petition filed by a professor of the Madras Christian College against the IC's findings that there was a prima facie case of harassment by him. When delivering the judgement, Justice Vaidyanathan made unrelated remarks about Christians ‘indulging in compulsory conversion’. He also spoke of a ‘general feeling’ among parents of girl children that co-educational Christian institutions were highly unsafe for the future of their children.
Observing that judge's conduct was unbecoming of someone sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws, the letter from lawyers said, “Two sweeping and strong observations were made damning (a) a minority religious group, viz. Christians and educational institutions run by them; and (b) women who complain of violence against them. The observations of the judge on both the subjects amount to transgression of judicial discipline because once a case is decided, a judge ceases to have jurisdiction to express opinion on issues that did not arise in the case.” Eminent lawyers including R Vaigai, Anna Mathew, Sudha Ramalingam, K Prema, B Anitha and Akila RS were signatories to the letter addressed to Chief Justice Vijaya Tahilramani.
Pointing out that Justice Vaidyanathan's personal opinions find its way into his judicial orders, the lawyers categorised his transgressions under abuse of office, propagation of communal hatred, gender bias and judicial bias. The lawyers expressed fears that the remarks raised questions about the integrity of courts as well as created the false impression that all of judiciary shared the view. They demanded that no litigation concerning the two issues be posted before Justice Vaidyanathan and that he ought to recuse himself if such a matter comes up in order to 'preserve the appearance of impartiality of judiciary.'
On Thursday, the judge stated that he would delete the problematic portions of his judgement and issue an amended order.