Statement of Stella James on 23rd December 2013

Statement of Stella James on 23rd December 2013

It has been widely reported in the news today that former Justice A.K. Ganguly has written a letter to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India. Several questions have been raised in the past few weeks, and I think it is appropriate at this stage, for me to answer some of them:

  1. Timing and Intent of the Blog

After the incident, when I returned to college, NUJS Kolkata, I spoke to some of my faculty about the incident at different times. Since the incident occurred during an internship, and the University did not have a policy against sexual harassment of women students during internship, it was indicated to me that any action would be ineffective. I was also informed that the only route for me was to file a complaint with the police, which I was reluctant to do. However, I felt it was important to warn young law students that status and position should not be confused for standards of morality and ethics. Hence I chose to do so via a blog post.

2. Deposing Before the three-member Committee

I did not question the jurisdiction or intent of the Hon’ble Three-member Judges’ Committee at any point, and had full faith that they would establish the truth of my statements. I sought confidentiality of proceedings keeping in mind the gravity of the situation, as well as the privacy of everyone involved.

The Committee acted with great discretion given the delicate nature of the case, and I appreciate that. The prima facie finding of three-Judge committee is well known to all.

3. Putting the details of my statement in public domain

Please find below the following timeline for clarity:

18th November 2013 – I appeared in person before the Hon’ble three-Judge Committee, and gave oral statement before the Committee. I also submitted written statement to the Committee, signed by me before them in person.

29th November 2013 – I sent an affidavit, signed and sworn on the same day, to Ms Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of India, disclosing to her the details of my sexual harassment, and requested her to seek appropriate action. The contents of the affidavit are substantially the same as the statements made by me before the Committee.

Even after the operative portion of the report of the Committee, was made public, many eminent citizens and legal luminaries continued to deride the Committee’s findings, and malign me. Hence, I found it necessary to clarify the details of my statement to preserve my own dignity as well as that of the Supreme Court. Therefore, I authorized Ms Indira Jaising, the Additional Solicitor General of India to make my statement public.

At this stage, I believe that anyone claiming that my statements are false is showing disrespect not just to me, but also to the Supreme Court of India.

4. Police Complaint

I request that it be acknowledged that I have the discernment to pursue appropriate proceedings at appropriate times. I ask that my autonomy be respected fully.

Again, I would like to state that I have acted with utmost responsibility throughout, keeping in mind the seriousness of this situation. Those who have been spreading rumours and politicizing the issue, are doing so out of prejudice and malice to obfuscate the issue and escape scrutiny and accountability.

Stella James

(Note: This blog is publishing this post in connection with an earlier post, which can be found here)

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17 Responses to Statement of Stella James on 23rd December 2013

  1. Anonymousobserver says:

    Dear Stella,

    Let me begin by saying I admire your courage to take up an action of this sort, i.e. approaching the Court and not being bothered by the fact that the issue went viral in the media. It is almost impossible for women to stand up to sexual harassment in this country, let alone standing up for one’s rights against a person in authority or a former judge! Many of us think a thousand times about complaining against our own colleagues even if they are members of anti-sexual harassment committees at our work place. I am a little disappointed in the way in which the Supreme Court handled the case. The jurisdiction of the 3-judge panel, although well-intentioned, is questionable.

    I’m really taken aback by the audacity that the former judge has shown in this case. Of course, this has nothing to do with his refusal to step down as the Chairperson of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. I think my feelings of outrage stem from the fact that some men who have held positions of authority in the past are condoning his behaviour, thus setting a dangerous precedent.

    While I respect your decision not to go to the police, I do wish you would consider following through with this cause.

  2. sr says:

    Stella, I want to believe that every word in your complaint is true (it does sound true to me). I am aware how individuals in power in India get exonerated by the system in spite of their misgivings. However, the problems related to this particular case (as I see it – and I think many well minded individuals are questioning the same) are the followings:
    1. The findings of the Supreme Court committee are Prima Facie;
    2. What appropriate action did you want from Additional Solicitor General, which could not be provided by the judicial system of the country? We are here talking about a criminal offence, which the state prosecutes!
    3. Justice should not only be done, but also seen to be done – but, I think people have not “seen” justice being done because of the (secretive) proceedings of the Supreme Court Committee. Things would have been totally different if after following the due process the alleged perpetrator was found guilty (and not prima facie);
    4. One respects your autonomy, but your stand has been changing (perhaps because you are pitted against many powerful quarters): your original blog wanted to question the ‘space’ in feminist ideas that did not offer enough scope for your actions (and feelings) after the alleged incident; you did not want to bring the alleged perpetrator’s whole life’s work into disrepute; but then, when the Supreme Court wanted your deposed; but then, when Additional Solicitor General wanted, you made your allegations public – since these powerful quarters are making you change your stand (and possibly influencing your autonomy), wouldn’t it be better to file a complaint against the alleged perpetrator.

    Finally, I do hope that you do not misunderstand me. I am not distrusting you – I am just hoping that you will set the criminal proceedings into motion, especially when the state is so unwilling to set it into motion (and shut people who are mudslinging).

    • James says:

      I would also like Stella to file a police complaint, but if she is unable to prove her case against Justice Ganguly i would like her to be given exemplary punishment for character assassination and for lowering the image of the indian judiciary. The fact that she has single handedly ensured that no senior lawyer or judge will now keep female interns thereby sabotaging the careers of many female lawyers should stem any sympathy among women for Stella.
      As you rightly point out, Stella has now changed her stand vis a vis Ganguly. Is it because of the prompting of Jaising who may have her own axe to grind against Ganguly?
      Can Stella be allowed to keep the whole country in tenterhooks. Can she be allowed to keep writing blogs while telling the police that she is unable to file any complaint because she is traveling? Stella needs to either put up or shut up. Either she should file the police complaint or she should simply shut up and restrain herself from writing her sly blogs in which she keeps hitting out at one of the bravest and boldest judges Indian judiciary has seen.

      • M.Thanabalan says:

        Well said. It is between two individuals. One tried to exploit the other by authority or what so ever. The other did not budge and saved herself. This type of things are happening in our country at every day at every level. Every one of us has been experiencing this and trying to come out unscathed. If every one takes this to blog, then this country will be in chaos.
        M.Thanabalan
        thana_balan@rediffmail.com

      • muraleekar says:

        I dont think you are in a position to mandate her what to do by simply giving her 2 of your best choices sir.. I seriously think its you poeple who need to shut your mouths and let her choose the path she thinks suitable and affordable.

      • James says:

        So Ganguly has resigned. At first glance one might think this is a victory for Stella, Jaisingh, et al but actually in the long run the circumstances in which Ganguly has resigned will ensure that this is a defeat for Stella, and a defeat for women’s rights. The fact that Stella will be ostracized in the legal fraternity is now given. Additionally, the fact that male judges and lawyers will no longer be taking female interns is also a given. In the unlikely event that male judges and lawyers take female interns it will be known people. Girls with no ‘connections’ will lose out. As for the West Bengal Human Rights Commission a retired police officer will now be heading it. Incidents of rape, sexual assault, etc. will now be going to the retired police officer rather than Ganguly. Any incident of West Bengal Police harassing young women will also go to this retired police officer.

        Whether Stella has damaged women rights and women freedom in West Bengal in particular but also in India on the whole is for the reader to decide.

  3. James says:

    Stella James forgets that even Justice Ganguly has the right to defend himself. Maligning Ganguly’s character publicly in the way Indira Jaisingh and Stella have done will only end up ensuring that judges and senior lawyers do not keep female interns. Jaisingh and Stella cannot force judges and senior lawyers to keep female interns.
    Even if we agree with Stella’s version (which Ganguly is disputing), all this amounts to is that Ganguly made a pass at her. He even touched her when he patted her on her back according to Stella. Is this really ground to lose one’s job or to be put in jail? Ganguly did not try to restrain Stella when she chose to leave the hotel. Also, if Stella was feeling uncomfortable throughout why did she choose to have dinner at the five star hotel? She should have left without consuming the five star food.
    In my opinion Stella and Jaisingh have brought disrepute to the legal profession. Stella will, i am confident, be ostracized by the legal community for going out of her way to malign an upright judge who had given some bold judgements and who had also contributed to bravely maintaining human rights in West Bengal in the face of the dictatorial Mamata Banerjee regime.
    Jaisingh needs to be fired from her job. She is better suited to be a lawyer-activist than to be an Assistant Attorney General of India.

    • Rakesh says:

      1. “Indira Jaisingh and Stella have done will only end up ensuring that judges and senior lawyers do not keep female interns”
      Yes those who can not respect women do not deserve to keep women employees. Simple. Your statement has only affirmed this fact.

      2. ” Is this really ground to lose one’s job or to be put in jail? ”
      No one is putting Justice Ganguly in Jail. What we want is he should own up his actions & resign. BTW what was that apology sent on SMS if he did nothing wrong.

      3. “In my opinion Stella and Jaisingh have brought disrepute to the legal profession. ”
      You live in an imaginary world.

      4. Giving bold judgments does not entitle a judge to harass women.

      • James says:

        1. What if a judge or senior lawyer reprimands a female intern or refuses to give her a recommendation letter and then subsequently she goes around complaining sexual harassment out of revenge or spite. Further, do the same standards apply to male interns interning for female lawyers and judges? If a male intern gives a sexual harassment complaint against a female judge is she obligated to step down from her position?

        2. You must be really naive. Once Ganguly resigns it will be taken as acceptance of guilt and then Jaisingh & company will start pressing for him to be put in jail and treated the way Tejpal is being treated. There is a world of a difference between the Ganguly and Tejpal cases but Jaisingh, Grover and the self-proclaimed ‘feminists’ would like to put the two cases on equal footing.

        3 and 4. The fact that Ganguly’s enemies are using Stella to hit back at him is obvious to everyone. Stella has let down the young female lawyers of India because no senior lawyer or judge would now like female interns to work for them. She has caused professional damage to a huge number of female lawyers by her irresponsible behavior of repeatedly crying wolf while refusing to file a police complaint and subject herself to cross-examination.

      • James says:

        With respect to the SMS apology we do not have the exact words and we do not know the exact context. That is why if Stella wants to pursue this she must file a police complaint instead of repeatedly crying wolf all the time. Ganguly has said he is a shattered man and Stella must bear responsibility for damaging him mentally and spiritually. The damage she has done to Ganguly far exceeds any real or imaginary damage he may have done to Stella.

      • James says:

        Media trial of a rape accused involving a case in which due process of law was not followed has recently led to a suicide. I am now referring to the recent case of JNU scholar Khurshid Anwar. I would hope that a ‘shattered’ Ganguly has the fortitude to be able to withstand the mudslinging currently being directed his way in blatant violation and defiance of the due process of law.

  4. Love Afraid says:

    Blogs and Justice’s don’t mix. Publicly heckling any Justice results in serious backlash, as I am sure Stella is aware of that. It can take many forms. Stella may have not want to file a police report but just caution others about dangers. But she can be at the receiving end of it as there are sufficient laws to hit back ! How one Justice handled blogs accusations using IT Act 66A police action is a relevant educational experience if you connect the dots of cause and effect. Makes you feel that free speech is a luxury item we cannot afford !

  5. Joy says:

    Dear Stella,
    Please file a complaint against Justice Ganguly with the Police. Don’t complain in blogs. Let the Police and Judiciary take it forward. Writing in blogs will simply strengthen the theory that you have no other intention but to malign Justice Ganguly’s image and nobody including Ms. Jaisingh has the right to malign anybody in our country. If you have proof come out and put a formal complaint. Otherwise more and more people will start shouting about the conspiracy theory. It has already affected careers of a lot of women interns in the country as judges and senior lawyers are thinking it twice in taking women interns. U have complained now you will have to prove it. Otherwise Justice Ganguly will get added to the long,increasing list of false accusations of harassment which a large number of todays’ women carry out to settle scores taking advantage of the gender biased legal system of the country. Even the manner Ms. Jaisingh has spoken on it, it seems she has some personal score to settle with Justice Ganguly rather than being serious about the main issue.

    • Mr.X says:

      Joy, in advancing his suggestions on what Stella should or should not do, says that “Writing in blogs will simply strengthen the theory that you have no other intention but to malign Justice Ganguly’s image”… to make his case.

      That is obviously false from the start, and I will take pains to show you why (just in case it is not obvious enough). Stella’s intentions, as expressed, have been to make other female interns aware of Ganguly’s misconduct so that they can be better prepared to fend off such unwelcome advances.

      Also, Stella has nothing to gain (and everything to lose) by maligning Ganguly’s “image” (assuming he has a stellar reputation).

      That Stella is out to malign Ganguly is really the very basis of Joy’s arguments. That contrivance has no legs to stand on. The classic “nobody has a right to malign anybody” truism is thrown in but that doesn’t save the day ! The whole argument has fallen on its face and lies bleeding, thanks to a false premise.

      Joy also makes a threat directed at all women interns that they will be rejected en-masse ! This is threat mongering at best and downright dishonest argument at worst, if designed to bring pressure on Stella to act in a certain way.

      “If you have proof” etc are other well worn phrases of the trade. Who doesn’t know that proof is hard to come by when sexual misconduct happens within the confines of a hotel room ? Yes, no wine bottles with finger-prints have been produced, but what ridiculous proof are you seeking, Joy ?

      Perhaps it is time for all the other interns who have suffered similarly to gather their courage and step forward to offer their experiences so that the plausibility of Stella’s alleged experience can be proven even to these hardened and joyless judges. But if no others come forward, I will not be surprised !

  6. Karthik Ramanathan says:

    Stella James definitely has tried to bring out an important issue that affects many people particularly women in India. She should be given due process and credit for speaking out, but a couple of factual points worth noting for its own sake:

    1) Her statement that she had full faith in the three judge panel seems to go against her initial reaction after her meeting with the panel (see http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/i-feel-humiliated-says-law-intern/article5390357.ece ) where she said she felt “humiliated” and felt she was looked upon with “suspicious eye”. It seems that Stella James is confusing faith and confidence with gratification over the judgement of the panel that is in her favor. Just a factual point.

    2) She also seems to confuse “assault” with harassment. To be fair, even taking the reports of her complaint as reported in the media at face value, there seems to be a stronger case of sexual harassment. The case of sexual assault seems much weaker in this case, at least to my eyes and with the information reported in the media.

    3) As much as I think sexual harassment including the complaint by Ms. Stella James has to be seriously, I’m of the view that the best way to take complaints seriously is to allow a fair hearing including a fair right to defense. With this in mind, I note that Justice AK Ganguly has only raised questions about the nature and circumstances and behavior of the Committee. Justice AK Ganguly, to his credit, has not raised any questions about the intern who has complained about him.

    4) For Stella James to suggest as in her article that Jusice AK Ganguly by questioning her allegations is “showing disrespect not just to me, but also to the Supreme Court of India.” smacks of an emotional response. A right to a fair trial including challenging allegations against oneself is not disrespect, but a right that Justice AK Ganguly is guaranteed under the Constitution justice as Ms. Stella James has the right to pursue her grievances.

    • Mr X says:

      Find it ironic and revealing that Karthik Ramanathan chooses to focus on Stella, whereas the focus should be on Ganguly’s conduct and the prevailing dominant-male culture.

      Ganguly’s alleged conduct may not per se constitute a crime but was certainly an unwelcome and annoying act (according to Stella’s statements). There is no sense in saying or implying that Stella should effectively accept Ganguly’s conduct, if she falls short of accusing him of criminality through the filing of an FIR. This is the wholesale nonsense being peddled by commentators here who keep insisting that she file an FIR “if” such a thing had happened ! As if the “if” is the shakiest “if” in this context ! And as if, the tables can quickly be turned on Stella if she doesn’t oblige.

      Criminal law is not the only law that a judge in such a privileged position of authority should obey. There are ethics and codes of conduct, explicit and implicit, which clearly say what an authority (here, Ganguly) should not ever do.

      [Just in case the reader misses the point, let me add that we are talking of ethics here, not morality — not at all ! The morality of a judge should be none of our business really].

      Now whether the alleged conduct makes Ganguly unfit for office is not something I am capable of judging. But the likes of Karthik wanting to turn the search light on Stella instead of on Ganguly and on the whole powerful-male Indian culture, is very revelatory. The problem lies rather too deep in our male-dominant and power-dominant culture !

  7. subrata choudhury says:

    Either Mr Ganguly or Stella James is true. Only God knows who is honest!

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