“It is a matter of complete disgrace that you were hounded by the Press and you were intolerant of them when there was a case against you…”
– Padma Bhushan Anupam Kher, The Telegraph National Debate, 2016
The choice of Retired Hon’ble Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly (“Justice Ganguly”) as a Panelist at The Telegraph National Debate, 2016 (“The Debate”) was confusing to say the very least. Two years ago, Justice Ganguly resigned from the post of an Honorary Professor at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. Two years ago, Justice Ganguly also quit as the Chief of the West Bengal State Human Rights Commission. None opposed his decision. Several legal luminaries in fact welcomed it.
The prospect of hearing Justice Ganguly at The Calcutta Club had me convinced that the Stella James Issue was now, “confined to the dustbin of history”. The Debate as a whole was fantastic and the concerned had every right to bring Justice Ganguly. But not a protest against his words and character was in sight.
An insightful blog post from Ms. James caused the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (“SC”) to set up a Three-Member Judges’ Committee in November, 2013. The Committee found prima facie evidence of “unwelcome behavior” by the Retired Justice. Ms. James, however, was not out for blood. She demanded that her “autonomy be respected fully”. She chose not to file a “formal complaint”. The question thus remained, “what really happened on the night of 24.12.2012, approximately between 8:00 PM and 10:30 PM”?
I recollect Justice Ganguly having said he quit in “disgust”. Why then did he not exercise his rights under the law? Ms. James was indeed vulnerable to an action. So was the Media. Some would say that the weight of silence is measured in gold. However, when a Chairman of a State Human Rights Commission quits days before his retirement, and in disgust apparently, is silence acceptable to the Court of the People of India? To respect or not to respect.
Judicial credibility is at a low. The question of respecting a Former SC Judge is no longer an important one. This is not desirable. Ms. James has done us no favor by withholding the truth. It is this nebulous secrecy that occasions a Padma Bhushan awardee to openly attack a Retired Justice, without shame. And pressed he should be, for not having delivered us unto the truth.