PUCL Bulletin, Oct. 2000

Suicide of Advocate Sangeetha Sharma
An advocate practicing in the Hyderabad High Court, Sangeetha Sharma committed suicide on June 14rh 2000. Sangeetha Sharma had left a note alleging her sexual harassment by her Senior. The AP PUCL has filed a writ petition, which has been admitted by justice G. Raghu Ram. The State PUCL organized an Open House at Sundaraiah Vignan Bhawan Baghlingam Pally on July 14. Shri Keshava Rao Jadhava, President State PUCL, Vasudha, advocate High Court, Kavita Srivastava, National Organizing Secretary from Jaipur, Rajasthan participated in the Open House. Speakers condemned Sangeetha Sharma's mental and physical harassment and spoke about wide spread prevalence of sexual harassment of women advocates by their colleagues and seniors.

The Open House demanded that (1) Sangeetha Sharma Case should be handed over to the CBI for enquiry; (2) Vijay Kumar, Sangeetha's Senior, Narasimha Naidu, and others should be prosecuted under IPC; (3) immediate implementation of Supreme Court directions in the case of Visakha vs State of Rajasthan; (4) State Government should take immediate steps to establish committees to look into cases of sexual harassment in all public and private officers and Courts.

Jaya Vindhyala General Secretary

Writ petition regarding sexual harassment of Sangeetha Sharma,

Ms. Jaya Vindhyala, General Secretary AP PUCL, filed a writ petition regarding sexual and mental harassment of an advocate, Ms. Sangeetha Sharma, by her senior, Shri D. Vijay Kumar, his colleague Shri Narasimha Naidu, and 14 others for the past one year, on July 4, 2000.

The victim complained about the harassment initially to her parents and on their advice to some other senior colleagues. She also gave a written complaint to the Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh on December 12, 1999. Her harassment did not stop and more associates and friends of Shri D. Vijay Kumar joined the harassment. She was frequently threatened in person and on telephone. Unable to bear the agony, Ms. Sangeetha Sharma committed suicide on June 14, 2000.

The police registered a case and Shri Narasimha Naidu was taken into custody and released on bail. There was a stay order on investigation and on June 28 the Court granted anticipatory bail to Shri D. Vijay Kumar.
The writ petition alleges that some of the accused are whispering widely that their names are on the panel of Judges and therefore they can't come to harm. The husband of one of the accused is a District Judge and has wide influence over the police. The father of the prime accused was a former member of the Parliament. All these factors seemed to be influencing the course of investigation. The concerned ACP in charge of investigations is said to have been transferred. Hence inquiry team is necessary that in the interest of Judges in the investigation has been handed over to the CBI.

The writ further submits that when the members of the National Commission for Women came to the Bar Association for enquiries many of the junior advocates and some of the senior advocates specifically stated that there was physical, sexual, and mental harassment of lady advocates in the Honorable Andhra Pradesh High Court.
The writ has been admitted and the Court has issues notices to respondents, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, the Station House officer of Regimental Bazar Police Station, the CBI, and the Union Government.
-Based on the writ filed by ms. Jaya Vindhyala

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