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Ex-judge accused of sex abuse is urged to resign from rights group

Delhi Supreme Court finds evidence of wrongdoing but will take no action reporter, Delhi

December 6, 2013

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Despite escaping prosecution by India’s top court, a retired judge accused of the sexual harassment of one of his interns has been urged to resign his chairmanship of a human rights commission.

The court has stated that while a three-judge panel found “prima facie” evidence of wrongdoing by former Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly against intern Stella James, it would take no further action because he had retired from the bench. 

James has claimed that Ganguly sexually assaulted her on December 24 last year, at a hotel in New Delhi where both were staying. Her allegations first appeared in her personal blog on November 6 this year.

In her testimony to the panel of judges, she said Ganguly made repeated sexual advances toward her after offering her wine, and that she subsequently fled the hotel.

Ganguly has dismissed the allegations. “I have nothing more to comment, except that these are baseless and I deny them,” he said on Wednesday.

Chief Justice Sathaisvam said the Supreme Court had no administrative control over Ganguly, who retired in February last year.

However, a growing number of political party leaders have called forhim to step down as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

“Justice Ganguly should step down to restore the sanctity of the office," said Derek O’Brien, chairman of the Trinamool Congress, a local grassroots party 

Supreme Court lawyer and leader of the Trinamool Congress Kalyan Banerjee also called for Ganguly’s resignation. 

“Decency demands that he must resign,” he said.

Sujato Bhadra, secretary of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, said the prima facie evidence was enough to demand his immediate resignation, while acknowledging that he had made important contributions as chairman of the rights group.

But some argue that no one should be forced out of office on the basis of allegations and in the absence of a court conviction.

“There will be no sanctity of public offices if people have to step down merely on the basis of allegations,” said Somnath Chatterjee, a lawyer and former parliamentarian.

The Ganguly case follows another high-profile allegation against Tarun Tejpal, editor in chief of the news weekly Tehelka, that he sexually assaulted a female colleague. 

Tejpal is currently in police custody and has resigned his position. He has not denied the allegations and characterized his stepping down as “atonement” for his actions.

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