SC Collegium Withdraws Recommendation for Bombay HC Judge Behind Controversial Orders

Justice Pushpa Ganediwala had passed controversial orders on cases of sexual harassment of minor children and rape.

New Delhi: Days after Bombay high court judge, Justice Pushpa Ganediwala, passed controversial orders on cases of sexual harassment of minor children and rape, the Supreme Court collegium withdrew its recommendation to confirm her permanent status in the state’s top court.

Justice Ganediwala shot to controversy when in a January 19 order, she ruled that groping a minor without “skin-to-skin contact” could not be termed as sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.

On January 28, Justice Ganediwala ruled that holding a five-year-old minor child’s hands and the act of a 50-year-old man unzipping his pants in front of her will not come under the ambit of ‘sexual assault’ as defined by the POCSO Act.

NDTV quoted sources as having said that the Collegium decided against appointing her as a permanent judge at the high court as it felt she needed “more exposure” in sensitive cases. “There is nothing personal against her. She needs exposure and may not have dealt with these types of cases when she was a lawyer…She needs exposure and training,” a source in the Supreme Court told NDTV.

Earlier on January 20, the Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, had recommended Justice Ganediwala’s name for confirmation as a permanent judge of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court. Besides the CJI, Justices N.V. Ramana and R.F. Nariman are part of the three-member collegium.

On January 27, the Supreme Court had stayed the Bombay high court order acquitting the man after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said the order would set a dangerous precedent.

It may be noted that the Collegium, which is the primary body to appoint judges at higher courts of India, rarely withdraws its recommendations to the Union government.

Two acquittals

In two other judgments this month, Justice Ganediwala acquitted two rape-accused men after noting that the testimonies of the victims did not inspire confidence to fix criminal liability on the accused.

“No doubt, the testimony of the prosecutrix (victim) is sufficient for conviction of the accused. However, the same ought to inspire confidence of this Court. It ought to be of sterling quality,” Justice Ganediwala said in one of the judgments.

In the second judgment, she said that while the sole testimony of the victim in rape cases is sufficient to fix criminal liability, the particular testimony was ‘sub-standard’.

“In the present case, considering the sub-standard quality of testimony of the prosecutrix, it would be a grave injustice to send the appellant behind bars for 10 years,” her order said.

In the judgments, delivered on January 14 and 15, she also questioned how a single man could gag a victim, undress her and rape her without leading to a scuffle.

“It seems highly impossible for a single man to gag the mouth of the prosecutrix (victim) and remove her clothes and his clothes and to perform the forcible sexual act without any scuffle. The medical evidence also does not support the case of the prosecutrix,” the judge’s order said.

In one of the two orders, the judge asked how an unmarried couple was allowed to stay in a house by their family members and how they could “find the privacy to indulge in physical relations.”

Justice Ganediwala was born on March 3, 1969 at Paratwada in Maharashtra’s Amravati district.

She was a panel advocate for various banks and insurance companies and was also an honorary lecturer in various colleges of Amravati. She also delivered lectures to MBA and LLM students of Amravati University.

She was directly appointed as a district judge in 2007 and was elevated as an additional judge of the Bombay high court on February 13, 2019.

(With PTI inputs)