Kerala High Court stays order transferring Sessions Judge S Krishnakumar who authored “provocative dress” order

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The Kerala High Court on Friday stayed the order transferring Kozhikode Principal District and Sessions Judge S Krishnakumar to a Labor Court in Kollam. [S Krishnakumar v State of Kerala].

His transfer had come on the heels of widespread criticism of an order he delivered in early August in which it was held that sexual harassment case would not prima facie stand if the victim was wearing a “sexually provocative dress”.

A division bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP issued the order on an appeal against the decision of a single-judge upholding his transfer.

In his plea before the High Court, Krishnakumar had contended that the transfer order was illegal, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

It was also argued that a wrong order passed by a judge while discharging his duty cannot be a ground to transfer the judge.

However, on September 1, a single-judge Justice dismissed the petition filed by him

“The petitioner, who is a member of the Higher Judicial Service cannot be said to be prejudiced in any manner by his posting as Presiding Officer of the Labour Court, which is a post borne on the cadre of District Judge and which is admittedly being filled up by the State Government by appointment of District Judges on the recommendation of the High Court. Being a responsible member of the District Judiciary, the petitioner is expected to render his services wherever he is posted. I fail to see what legal right of the petitioner is infringed by Exhibit P2 order. I am of the opinion that the grounds raised in the writ petition do not justify the grant of any of the reliefs as sought for,” the order stated.

Krishnakumar was serving as Additional District and Sessions Judge at Kozhikode when he was transferred as Presiding Officer of Labour Court in Kollam district.

A notice to that effect was published on the website of the Kerala High Court on August 23. However, his transfer will only be effected on receipt of the relevant Government Order.

As per the notice, the transfer was part of the routine transfer and posting of judicial officers and three other judges have also been transferred.

However, it came at a time when the judge was under scanner for an order passed by him in a sexual harassment case while granting bail to activist Civic Chandran.

The order stated that to attract the offence under Section 354A of the Indian Penal, there must be some unwelcome sexual advances but in the instant case, the photographs of the complainant showed her “exposing herself in provocative dresses”.

“In order to attract this Section, there must be a physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures. There must be a demand or request for sexual favours. There must be sexually colored remarks. The photographs produced along with the bail application by the accused would reveal that defacto complainant herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one (sic). So Section 354A will not prima facie stand against the accused,” the order had said.

The High Court recently stayed the bail order but ordered that Chandran not be arrested until completion of the hearing before it.

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