Hearing allegations by a lawyer on a conspiracy to “frame” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on sexual harassment charges, a Supreme Court bench Wednesday met the chiefs of the CBI, Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police and said the charges were “highly sensitive”, “if true were very serious” and will need further investigation.
A bench led by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta asked the lawyer Utsav Bains, who claimed he had more information to support his allegations made in an affidavit that CJI Gogoi was being framed, to file an additional affidavit by Thursday morning after which it will decide if a probe needs to be ordered. It also asked the three agency chiefs “to seize the relevant material” furnished by the lawyer.
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The court made it clear that that the process of determining the veracity of the allegations by Bains will not, in any way, affect the in-house probe being conducted by a three-judge committee comprising Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Indira Banerjee into the allegations of sexual harassment levelled by a former woman staffer of the court against CJI Gogoi.
Bains in his affidavit to the court said he “was informed by reliable sources that certain ‘fixers’, who claim to be engaged in illegally managing judgments in exchange for cash are behind this plot as the Hon’ble CJI has taken decisive action to crack down on such fixers”.
He also claimed that three dismissed employees of the Supreme Court had “ganged up” and were trying to target the CJI. On Tuesday, the bench had asked him to produce material evidence in support of his contentions. Bains Wednesday submitted a sealed cover to the court which he claimed contained “material evidence” and “CCTV footage which is very incriminating”.
Terming the contents of the sealed cover “very sensitive”, Justice Mishra said, “We want to get to the root of the problem. Who are these fixers? They have to be booked. All these things have to stop. We will enquire, enquire, enquire till we find out truth…”.
Earlier the bench directed the chiefs of the CBI, IB and Delhi Police to appear and meet them in chambers. After the meeting, the bench reassembled at 3 pm to hear the matter at length.
“In the affidavit, he has also given certain names and has also alleged that they have asserted that they could fix the Bench of the Judges. This is a very serious aspect of the affidavit filed by Mr. Utsav Singh Bains, a young man whose entire career is before him. He knows the consequences of filing false affidavit in this Court,” the bench said in its order.
“Considering the seriousness of the allegations as the system has absolutely no place for such fixers, we cannot leave the matter at that. It becomes our responsibility to keep this Institution clean as well as to ensure that the image of this Institution is not tarnished by such allegations to undertake the probe in the matter”, the Bench said in its order.
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Expressing concern over Bains’s allegations about a gang of fixers in the courts, Justice Mishra said, “It’s a matter of concern for the institution…Entire country will lose faith if this kind of affidavit goes unnoticed…We will not tolerate this kind of nonsense” adding, “In case this affidavit is wrong, we will not tolerate it”.
The court also termed as “very disturbing”, the charge that some employees dismissed from the court were behind the scandal trying to fix the CJI. Justice Nariman said, “We have to tread very warily and we have to preserve this institution…”.
The court noted that the lawyer has named two of these employees in his affidavit. On Thursday, the bench will also hear Attorney General K K Venugopal on Bains claiming privilege against disclosing some of his communications. The court also directed that the police protection given to Bains should continue until further orders.
Appearing before the bench, advocate Indira Jaising requested the court to clarify that the judicial proceedings in the matter should not prejudice the inquiry by the three-judge committee. The court agreed and clarified so in its order.
“We clarify that the exercise which is undertaken by the Court on judicial side is outside the scope of the said matter, the correctness of which has to be looked into on the administrative side by the appropriate authorities. We are taking up the matter so as to ascertain the correctness of the averments made in the affidavit, to ascertain the various aspects which have been mentioned which cannot be done without proper investigation and any order passed on judicial side by this Court shall not affect the matter on administrative side”, the order said.