HIGH COURT TAKES COGNISANCE OF ALLEGATIONS, ISSUES NOTICES
GANGTOK, 19 July: A woman, whose efforts brought about a sea change in the administration and governance in Sikkim especially for the women employees and in the manner in which they were viewed, is now also part of a spat within the lawyer community here; this has led to the filing of a contempt petition in the High Court against two advocates.
It may be recalled that it was the unwavering and dogged pursuit for justice by a peon employed at a nationalized bank in Gangtok, through her advocate, Dr. Doma Bhutia, which led to the Supreme Court issuing directions to the state government on the protection of women employees in all state government departments, public sector units and even private companies which have a sizeable number of women employees.
This in turn led to the state government issuing a notification early this year and in compliance with the directives of the Supreme Court that each department should have a committee comprising of certain members to look into complaints of sexual harassment in workplace. The woman had initially filed a case against her superior official in the bank accusing him of sexual harassment.
Now, her advocate has filed a contempt case against the opposite party and his advocates alleging interference in the administration of justice. This resulted after the woman filed for withdrawal of her present case pending in the High Court without the knowledge of her advocate. This case was filed recently after a committee, as per the apex court’s directions, had been set up by the bank to look into her allegations of sexual harassment. The committee reported that the allegations could not be proved.
It has been alleged that the woman was influenced into withdrawing her case by the opposite party, an official with the said bank, and his advocates after having called her for a meeting in the chamber of the opposite party’s advocate who is a senior advocate with the High Court. It is further alleged that during the meeting the woman was offered certain benefits if she withdrew her petition.
This, she allegedly agreed to, following which a withdrawal application was filed. The woman has subsequently deposed before the High Court that her decision to file for withdrawal of her pending petition was not voluntary thus raising doubts that there had been some allurement or pressure.
Advocate Doma Bhutia submitted before the court, in the course of the contempt proceedings, that such practice should be stopped. Noting that this was unfortunate, the High Court observed “…the seriousness of the allegations has prompted us to take cognizance of this contempt proceeding though the allegations relate to some happenings outside the court but since the allegations relate to the administration of justice, we feel that this is a case where cognizance should be taken”.
Following this, notices were issued to two junior advocates, allegedly present at the forementioned meeting and also to the official of the bank against whom the initial case of harassment had been filed.