The Supreme Court Thursday asked its retired judge Justice A K Patnaik to conduct an inquiry into a lawyer’s allegations that there was a conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi using sexual harassment charges.
Ordering the probe into allegations made in affidavits filed by advocate Utsav Bains, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta asked the CBI Director, Intelligence Bureau Director and Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with the inquiry whenever their services are required.
The bench made it clear that the inquiry by Justice Patnaik will not affect in any manner the inquiry by a panel of three judges into sexual harassment charges levelled against the CJI by a former woman staffer of the Supreme Court “…we make it clear that this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India. This is with respect to the contents of the affidavits, whether the affidavits are correct or not,” it said.
Earlier, senior advocate Indira Jaising told the bench that it should be clarified that there is no connection between the hearing on the affidavit of Bains and the matter before the three-judge committee.
The inquiry by Justice Patnaik will determine the veracity of Bains’s allegation that the CJI was the target of a lobby of corrupt corporates, fixers and disgruntled and dismissed employees of the court. The bench rejected Bains’s plea of privilege against disclosing some of his communications to the enquiry panel, saying he will have to share all relevant information.
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It as Justice Patnaik to “submit a report to this Court on the basis of the inquiry as to the allegations mentioned in the affidavits”. The matter will be heard by the court after the report is received.
In his affidavit, Bains had said he had been “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”.
Before pronouncing the order, Justice Mishra hit out at what he said was a systematic “attempt to influence the court” and “time has come when we have to tell the people and the rich and powerful of this country — you cannot run this court… You cannot play with fire”.
Referring to Bains’s allegation that gangs of fixers were operating to fix benches, Justice Mishra said “these things are happening in the country since long. So many things are going on. Fixing thing is so serious”.
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Interrupting Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who rose to make his submission, Justice Mishra said “don’t think Supreme Court can be run by any remote power from any corner of earth, whether by political power or economic power”.
“This is a systematic game… So many things have not come out… People of this country must know the truth,” he said.
Decrying the practice of writing letters when matters are pending, he said this is done to influence the courts. “Whenever we start hearing big cases involving big people, these things happen… Attempts are made to influence us by writing letters… Even books are written… What is happening?”.
“People run by money power try to influence the Registry… Take action against anyone and they will malign and kill… this can’t go on,” he said.
“This court was made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhivala, K Parasaran. This is your institution and not ours,” he said.
When Jaising tried to intervene, Justice Mishra said “don’t provoke us… Don’t invite our comments on this serious issue of bench-fixing… many things have been said but truth has not come out… The remote control and other things… we are worried as judges what is happening here”.