The Charge Against Justice Ganguly – A Personal Reflection

The Charge Against Justice Ganguly – A Personal Reflection

Soma Marik

Justice Ashok Ganguly, former Supreme Court judge and chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, has been accused of sexual harassment by a young woman law intern. This has generated a serious crisis. Many in the legal and judicial sectors have raised their voices in defence of Justice Ganguly. Soli Sorabjee, eminent jurist and former Attorney General of India, made a distinction between the case against Tarun Tejpal and the charges against justice Ganguly, saying the latter were only allegations. Sorabjee said that if Ganguly steps down as West Bengal Human Rights Commission chairman due to these accusations then it will lead to a very dangerous precedent.

There is also much consternation among those who have fought corruption, and human rights violations. Justice Ganguly was part of the panel that probed the 2G scandal. Subsequently, as the Chair of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, he has played an important role. He has striven to make the Commission an active body fully independent of the government of the day. In the case of Ambikesh Mahapatra the HRC told the state government to pay him a hefty compensation. It is not surprising that TMC MP Kalyan Bandyopadhyay has demanded the resignation of Justice Ganguly from the post of Chair of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. Political parties that see nothing beyond how to cling on to power are notorious for their selective approach. BJP has been suddenly active about Tarun Tejpal, even attacking Shoma Chaudhury and her house, while covering up the rapes of women in Gujarat in 2002. TMC has likewise tried to play down all cases of rapes and sexual assaults in West Bengal after 2011, but have suddenly found a cause to champion in the charges against Justice Ganguly.
For anyone who is to claim to be a sincere democrat, a women’s right activist, the situation is different. We may have much appreciation of Justice Ganguly. But this cannot lead to any difference in our stance. Arguments are being made, as to why the woman has come forward so late, and so on. We need to understand that few women come forward. The woman concerned has explained clearly her position. She had initially been afraid (she uses the term “cowardly”). Also, as there had been no witnesses she was skeptical about getting anything done.

The “ideal” sexual harassment charge is always the one brought against someone perceived as a rank outsider – a police officer, for example. But as we know, the reality is, most sexual harassment is done by people known to the woman. This is not the first time that similar issues have come up. The issue is not whether Justice Ganguly should resign before the allegations are examined. The issue is, however, that as in all cases, we must begin by extending support and solidarity to the woman who has expressed her anguish. We must demand that all the legal steps must be taken, regardless of the status of Justice Ganguly or his record in other matters.