Judge behind POCSO verdicts gets one-year tenure extension

“In exercise of power conferred by clause (1) of Article 224 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Smt Pushpa Virendra Ganediwala, to be an additional judge of the Bombay High Court for a period of one year with effect from 13 February 2021,” the warrant of appointment stated.

ACCEPTING THE revised recommendation made by the Supreme Court Collegium, the government on Friday extended the tenure of Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala, additional judge of the Bombay High Court, by another year. The extension comes just a day before her initial two-year tenure was set to end.

“In exercise of power conferred by clause (1) of Article 224 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Smt Pushpa Virendra Ganediwala, to be an additional judge of the Bombay High Court for a period of one year with effect from 13 February 2021,” the warrant of appointment stated.

After two of her recent verdicts came under a close scrutiny for the controversial interpretation of sexual assault under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, the Supreme Court Collegium had withdrawn its January 20 recommendation to appoint Justice Ganediwala as a permanent judge of the high court.

If the extension was not granted, she would have had to return to the district judiciary from where she was elevated in February 2019. The Indian Express had reported that the Collegium’s decision to withdraw its recommendation on making Justice Ganediwala a permanent judge came after the Collegium received two strong notes of dissent from senior Supreme Court judges who are consulted for appointments to the Bombay High Court — Justices D Y Chandrachud and A M Khanwilkar.

On January 19, Justice Ganediwala acquitted a man of sexual assault on the grounds that pressing the breasts of a child over her clothes without direct “skin to skin” physical contact does not constitute “sexual assault” under the POCSO Act.

Saying that Section 8 of POCSO provides for stringent punishment of five years’ of rigorous imprisonment, she observed that “stricter proof and serious allegations are required”. So the man was convicted “under minor offence u/s 354 of IPC and sentenced to undergo RI”. On January 27, the Supreme Court stayed this order.

Additional judges to high courts are appointed either from the Bar directly or state judiciary under Article 224 (1) of the Constitution for a period not exceeding two years. The age of retirement is the same as that of permanent judges – 62 years. Additional judge posts are constitutionally mandated to be temporary posts to handle the “increased burden of the court”. However, these posts are increasingly used as probationary periods for judges before they are promoted as permanent judges.

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