The central government has reportedly dashed off a letter to Chief Justice Dipak Misra, alleging that a complaint of sexual harassment against a district court judge in Karnataka was not handled according to the Vishakha guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.
The Vishakha Guidelines are a set of procedural guidelines formed by the Supreme Court in 1997, for use in India in cases of sexual harassment.
The Centre was speaking in the context of the judge's name being recommended for elevation to the Karnataka High Court.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote the letter days after Justice J Chelameswar, the second senior most judge in the Supreme Court after the CJI, alleged that the Centre was stalling the appointment of PK Bhat even after a probe by the Karnataka HC had absolved him.
Quoting sources, PTI reported that the three-page letter was written last week, and cited a complaint of sexual harassment made by a woman judicial officer against Bhat.
The letter also reportedly rejected Justice Chelameswar's charges and said that the government was in no hurry to take a call on the recommendation of the collegium to elevate Bhat to the Karnataka HC.
In the last week of March, Justice Chelameswar had expressed concern saying that there was "too much" interference of the executive in the appointment of "judges with independent minds".
The concern is rooted in the government sitting over the recommendation of the top court collegium for the appointment of judges to the high court and the Supreme Court, including recommendations for their transfers.
It is echoed in Justice Chelameswar's letter, where he said: "For some time, our unhappy experience has been that the government's accepting our recommendations is an exception and sitting on them is the norm. 'Inconvenient' but able judges or judges to be, are being bypassed through this route."
There are about 230 names recommended by the top court collegium for appointment as judges of various high courts, which are pending with the government for clearance since nearly a year-and-a-half.
Though the Supreme Court has a sanctioned strength of 31 judges, at present there are 27 judges. Another six are going to retire this year, including Chief Justice Dipak Misra who will demit office on October 2.