The Supreme Court Collegium has withdrawn its recommendation of promoting Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala as a permanent judge of the Bombay High Court, following her recent controversial judgements in three sexual assault cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) Act.
The Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, wrote to the government withdrawing the Supreme Court Collegium's January 20 recommendation to appoint Justice P.V. Ganediwala, as a permanent judge of Bombay High Court, Bar and Bench reported.
Ganediwala is currently the Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court. Her file will now be placed before the Collegium to decide on her tenure as the Additional Judge.
The Collegium is thinking of either sending the judge back to the district judiciary from where she was elevated in February 2019 or extending her probation by a couple of years, sources told The Sunday Express.
On January 14, Justice Ganediwala reversed the conviction order under POCSO, after noting that nothing concrete supported the prosecution's case for rape. The judgment stated that the survivor's testimony did not inspire confidence to fix criminal liability on the accused.
On January 15, she handed down another acquittal. She held that the acts of holding hands of a minor girl and opening 'zip of pants' did not fall under the purview of 'sexual assault' or 'aggravated sexual assault' as defined under Section 7 of POCSO Act.
The judgment came while the court was hearing an appeal of a 50-year-old man challenging a session court's verdict that convicted him for sexually assaulting a five-year-old.
The third judgment was delivered on January 19, where Ganediwala acquitted an accuse of sexual assault, on the grounds that pressing breasts of a child over her clothes without direct 'skin to skin' physical contact does not constitute sexual assault under POCSO.
She observed that 'stricter evidence was required' for the case to be taken forward.
"In view of the above discussion, this Court holds that the appellant is acquitted under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and convicted under minor offence u/s 354 of IPC and sentenced him to undergo RI," the judge said.
The maximum sentence for the offence under this section would be five years or a minimum one year, she added.
By holding its recommendation, the Collegium sets up a precedent for the right intervention and sends a strong message to judges to abide by judicial propriety. "The only issue that was flagged before the Collegium was that of the quality of the judgments and nothing more. There is no question about the judge's probity or integrity," the media quoted the source as saying.