The Supreme Court on Thursday closed the suo motu case of 2019 initiated to examine if there was a “larger conspiracy” behind the allegations of sexual harassment against former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Bar and Bench reported.

The matter was closed by a Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian on the ground that the possibility of the recovery of electronic evidence in relation to the case was unlikely.

The court also observed that enquiry panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Patnaik had already submitted a report, concluding that a conspiracy behind the sexual harassment allegations “cannot be ruled out”. “There are strong reasons to believe that some kind of conspiracy might have been undertaken against the then CJI Gogoi,” the bench said, while quoting the report of Justice Patnaik.

The report had surmised that certain tough stances taken by Gogoi during his tenure could have triggered the allegations, the court noted. It had also referred to an Intelligence Bureau input that several persons were unhappy with the former CJI’s stand on preparation of the National Register for Citizens in Assam, reported Live Law.

“However, since over two years have passed, it is difficult to obtain electronic evidence,” the Supreme Court said. Quoting from the enquiry report by Justice Patnaik, the bench observed that “the veracity of the allegations leveled by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains could not be verified completely due to the limited access of records and other collaborative material”.

Bains had filed an affidavit following the unprecedented hearing in the court during which Justice Gogoi had said some “bigger force” was behind the sexual harassment allegations as they wanted to “deactivate” the CJI’s office.

“Simultaneously the report on the existence of conspiracy cannot be completely ruled out,” the Supreme Court added. Therefore, the court said the suo motu case was closed and proceedings are disposed off. There is no requirement to keep the case going on,” it said.

In April 2019, a woman who had earlier worked as a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court, alleged in an affidavit that Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and October 11, 2018. She had sent a complaint to 22 judges of the Supreme Court on April 19, 2019, and called for an inquiry into the actions of Gogoi, who she said not only harassed her, but was also responsible for her subsequent victimisation and that of her family.

Gogoi had denied the allegations during a special hearing he called on April 20, 2019. The ex-chief justice had said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations but claimed they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”.