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Judge Who Passed Controversial Sex Assault Orders Gets Reduced New Term

Justice Pushpa Ganediwala was elevated as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court in February 2019.

New Delhi:

A Bombay High Court judge, who delivered controversial orders on sexual assaults in the recent weeks, got a reduced fresh term as an additional judge. The decision to extend Justice Pushpa Ganediwala’s fresh tenure by only one year, instead of two years as recommended by the Supreme Court collegium, was taken by the centre. The government on Friday put out a notification on her new term.

Justice Pushpa Ganediwala’s fresh term coms into effect from today after her earlier tenure as an additional judge ended on Friday.

Last month, the Supreme Court panel, in a rare instance, withdrew its recommendation to the government to confirm the permanent status of Justice Ganediwala as a Bombay High Court judge after two controversial orders passed by her. The decision to not grant permanent status was based on the possible need for “more exposure” in such cases, according to sources in the court.

After withdrawing its pitch for a permanent status for Justice Ganediwala in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, the Supreme Court panel recommended that she be given a fresh term as an additional judge for two years.

In a January 19 ruling, Justice Pushpa Ganediwala, 51, ruled that groping a minor’s breast without “skin-to-skin contact” cannot be termed as sexual assault as defined under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Days later, the Supreme Court put that order on hold, allowing the government’s top lawyer to file a petition against it. The order was “disturbing” and would create a dangerous precedent, Attorney General KK Venugopal had said.

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In another case last month, Justice Ganediwala ruled that “the acts of ‘holding the hands of the prosecutrix’ (female victim), or ‘opened zip of the pant’…does not fit in the definition of ‘sexual assault’,” and quashed the conviction of a man under child sexual assault laws. The survivor in this case, was a five-year-old minor.

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The procedure for appointing permanent judges or making judges permanent involves the three-member collegium, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, sending its recommendations to the Central government which then approves it. Sometimes, though, the recommendations are returned to the collegium with queries.
“There is nothing personal against her. She needs exposure and may not have dealt with these types of cases when she was a lawyer…She needs exposure and training,” a source in the Supreme Court had told NDTV last month.

Justice Pushpa Ganediwala was a panel advocate for various banks and insurance companies and was also an honorary lecturer in various colleges of Amravati. She was directly appointed district judge in 2007 and was elevated as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court on February 13, 2019.

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