Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has opposed the reinstatement of a judicial officer who said her resignation was due to “coercive circumstances” after she filed a complaint of sexual harassment against a then sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Live Law reported on Tuesday.

Mehta told a Supreme Court bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai that the petition should be declined as it would “stigmatise an entire institution”.

In December 2017, a three-member committee set up by the Rajya Sabha to look into allegations of sexual harassment against the Madhya Pradesh High Court judge had cleared him of the charges.

Though the committee had in its report noted that the transfer order against the woman judicial officer was “punitive, irregular and unjustified”. The committee had also said that the woman had to resign as a result of “unbearable circumstances”, according to Live Law. But on the matter of sexual harassment, the committee had said that a “higher degree of proof is required”.

Citing the report’s observations that the transfer was irregular, the woman judge had moved the High Court seeking to be reinstated.

Advocate Indira Jaising, who represented the woman judge, said the transfer was in violation of the existing policy. Jaising told the Supreme Court that the woman judge had to resign as she was “faced with hostile transfer orders for not succumbing to the demands of the judge”.

Mehta, however, argued that the woman judge’s resignation was a result of family circumstances and not coercion. The solicitor general submitted that the findings of the Rajya Sabha committee were not challenged even though its report was submitted in 2017.

He stated that by commenting on the transfer order, the committee had gone beyond its scope, according to Live Law. Jaising said it was a fact-finding panel and well within its right to make recommendations.

Mehta also told the Supreme Court that even if the woman judge’s transfer is considered irregular, it cannot lead to the conclusion that she resigned under coercion. According to Mehta, the woman should have challenged her transfer order if she found it to be irregular, especially as she was a judge herself.

Jaising submitted that there was no delay in seeking legal remedy and that the woman judge made a representation to the court in December 2017 seeking to be reinstated after the committee submitted its report, according to Live Law.

The Supreme Court heard both sides and reserved its order.

Previously, the Supreme Court had asked the Madhya Pradesh High Court to consider reinstating the woman judge. The High Court, however, declined to reinstate her and told the Supreme Court that an “amicable solution of the matter is not possible”, the Hindustan Times reported on January 22.

According to an affidavit, the full court decided that the woman judicial officer could not be reinstated after she resigned voluntarily. On previous occasions as well, the High Court had refused to reinstate the woman judicial officer, according to the Hindustan Times.