The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to Madhya Pradesh High Court and stayed disciplinary proceedings against a senior district court judge accused of sexually harassing a judicial officer in 2018, Live Law reported.

A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanium said that it “has become a trend” to file complaints against judges and that it was a deplorable act.

Senior advocate R Balasubramanium told the court that the judge concerned had worked for 32 years and was about to be considered for promotion.

“This is such a regular phenomenon in our system now,” CJI Bobde said. “When something is on the verge of happening, all kinds of things start. People remember what kind of bad person he is. What to do? This has become a trend now. It has become a practice now.”

The judge concerned had moved the Supreme Court after the Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissed his plea to quash the sexual harassment charges against him, NDTV reported. In March 2018, the judicial officer had filed a case of sexual harassment against the High Court judge before a Gender Sensitisation Internal Complaint Committee.

“Without giving him [a] notice, a discreet inquiry was conducted by a district judge as per [the] High Court order, which found him guilty,” R Balasubramanium told the court. “But when the report was sent to [the] gender sensitisation committee, the complainant – the judicial officer – did not come to present evidence despite repeated reminders [sent to her].”

R Balasubramanium added that the panel had alleged misconduct over WhatsApp messages exchanged between the complainant and the petitioner.

The High Court judge’s petition also raised questions on the manner in which the inquiry was conducted by the gender sensitisation committee. It said the petitioner was not even questioned and given a chance to present his side.

The committee had demanded disciplinary action against the district judge.

In April 2019, a junior court assistant who used to work at the Supreme Court had written to 22 judges alleging that then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11, 2018. Following the allegations, Gogoi had held a special hearing on a “matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of the judiciary”.

Gogoi denied the allegations during a special hearing he called on April 20. The chief justice said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations but claimed they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”.