Wednesday’s hearing in Supreme Court on claims by a lawyer that there was a plot to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on sexual harassment charges had some tense moments when the bench warned that the court will not hesitate to throw him out if he disrespects Attorney General K K Venugopal, and the counsel responded that he would walk out on his own.
“If you don’t (respect the A-G), not even an iota of doubt, we will throw you out immediately. He is the senior-most member of the Bar,” Justice R F Nariman told advocate Utsav Bains, who was summoned to provide material evidence in support of his claims.
Bains replied: “I respect the A-G. I was only responding to personal attacks. Since Justice Nariman has decided to throw me out, I will walk out myself. I am deeply hurt.”
Justice Nariman later added: “He (A-G Venugopal) is the greatest gentleman in this court. We all learn from him.”
It was left to Justice Arun Mishra to cool tempers as he advised Bains to be patient and explained that Justice Nariman had only meant that he should throw out his anger.
The exchange occurred after Justice Mishra told Venugopal that the court would like to hear him on Bains claiming privilege over some of his communications. “What we want to know is in case of such a conspiracy, can there be privilege,” Justice Mishra asked.
Venugopal replied, “I really don’t understand that a person says there is a conspiracy but only produces half the evidence.”
As Bains countered this and said the A-G was making it personal, Justice Mishra intervened and told the lawyer, “You must respect him. You know, even I have learned from him.”
Bains said he respects the A-G but the latter had resorted to “personal attacks” ever since the hearing began. He was referring to proceedings earlier in the day after he submitted what he claimed was “material evidence” to support his claims in a sealed cover to the bench.
Venugopal then pointed to certain inconsistencies in what Bains had stated in a Facebook post and what he was saying now.
Apparently upset, Bains said he was “disappointed the way the Bar is divided” on the issue, and that he was not taking the risk of appearing in the matter for himself, but for the entire judiciary. “Ridiculous…I feel disgusted,” he remarked, inviting protests from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who said, “He is a senior. You can’t use such words for him.”
As the court was about to break for lunch, Mehta said Bains should apologise to Venugopal, who laughed it off and said, “No, no. He is a young man.”
At this, Justice Mishra said, “I apologise on his behalf.”
The post-lunch session saw an intervention by advocate Indira Jaising, who tried to refer to the probe by the apex court’s in-house panel. But the court told her that it is only dealing with allegations in Bains’s affidavit, and is in no way concerned with the inquiry.
Jaising also said Bains should give a declaration that he is not connected to anyone involved in the controversy.
Bains replied that there were some rumours going on about him and agreed to give a declaration as sought by Jaising.