The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked lawyer Utsav Bains to corroborate his claim that three former employees of the top court had come together to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in sexual harassment allegations with the help of some powerful lobbyists, Live Law reported.
A three-judge bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta was hearing Bains’ claims that he was offered money to help frame such allegations against Gogoi.
Bains had first made the claims in a Facebook post on the weekend, and filed an affidavit in sealed cover to the court on Wednesday morning. During the second sitting of the bench at 3 pm, Attorney General KK Venugopal pointed out that in his affidavit, Bains had omitted a mention he had made in his Facebook post, about a “lobby of disgruntled judges” who he blamed for orchestrating the allegations against Gogoi.
Bains responded: “This is a very serious allegation by the A-G. I am absolutely disappointed. Bar is divided. I am thinking of leaving the profession. I have never seen such cheap allegations.”
The court then asked him to file an additional affidavit to corroborate his claim. The bench said it will go to the root of the alleged conspiracy and claims made by Bains.
Among other things, Bains submitted CCTV footage, which he claimed will “reveal many things”.
“He [Bains] has said that there are fixers,” said Justice Arun Mishra, according to Bar and Bench. “We need to find out who are these fixers. We will inquire and inquire and inquire and take it to logical conclusion.” The Supreme Court said the judicial institution will not survive if fixers work and try to manipulate it, reported PTI.
In the morning sitting, the bench had summoned the chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Bureau and the Delhi Police at 12.30 pm after perusing documents submitted by Bains.
After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta called for a court-monitored inquiry by a Special Investigation Team into the allegations in the affidavit, Bains objected saying “the CBI has been used as a political tool” in the past. There should be judicial inquiry instead, he added.
Bains’ entry into the court
During the hearing, senior advocate Indira Jaising questioned how Bains had entered the Supreme Court campus without an entry sticker on his car, The Leaflet reported. “How can he do that? All our cars have sticker. He came in a Jaguar taxi. Let him admit or deny it,” Jaising said.
Bains told the Supreme Court bench that Jaising was resorting to personal attacks. Jaising also asked the court to seek an affidavit from Bains on his credentials.
Entry into the Supreme Court campus is strictly regulated and every individual entering the campus must procure an entry pass. In the case of vehicles, only those with a Supreme Court entry sticker are allowed.
Jaising appeared before the bench for the hearing in the suo motu proceedings initiated by the Supreme Court in the wake of allegations against Gogoi. Jaising said she was not representing anyone. “We women lawyers are as much concerned about the judicial independence and integrity of this court,” she said, according to Bar and Bench.
Jaising told the bench her sole concern was an independent inquiry into the affidavit filed by a former court employee raising allegations against the chief justice. On Jaising’s request, the Supreme Court clarified that the ongoing proceedings in response to Bains affidavit would not come in the way of the inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations.
- Chief Justice of India sexually harassed me, says former SC staffer in affidavit to 22 judges
- SC asks lawyer who alleged a conspiracy to frame CJI Ranjan Gogoi to appear on Wednesday
Meanwhile, the in-house inquiry panel, headed by Justice SA Bobde, has asked the woman to appear before it on April 26, reported Live Law. The inquiry committee also comprises Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Bobde had told PTI on Tuesday that the panel would carry out an in-house inquiry, which does not need the parties involved to hire lawyers. “It is not a formal judicial proceeding,” he pointed out. The judge said there was no time frame to complete the proceedings and the inquiry’s findings will be confidential.
The charges and Gogoi’s reaction
The complainant, who used to work as a junior court assistant at the top court, wrote to 22 of its judges on April 19, alleging that Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11. In the affidavit, the woman said that after she rebuffed the chief justice, she was moved out of his residence office, where she had been posted in August. Two months later, on December 21, she was dismissed from service. One of the three grounds for dismissal, as detailed in an inquiry report, was that she had taken casual leave for one day without approval. She has alleged that her family is being persecuted after the incident.
Gogoi denied the allegations during a special hearing on April 20. The chief justice said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations and that they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”. Gogoi said the woman has a criminal background, with two cases against her.