A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said, “people with money power are trying to run the registry of the top court ... this is a really serious matter ... people can be killed or maligned if truth is brought forth ...”
THE Supreme Court on Thursday constituted a one-man panel of former apex court judge Justice A K Patnaik to hold inquiry into the allegations of larger conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and fixing of benches in the top court. The apex court made it clear that inquiry by Justice (retd) Patnaik shall not be with respect to the ‘alleged misbehaviour’ involving the CJI, against whom allegations of harassment have been levelled by a former top court employee. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said, “people with money power are trying to run the registry of the top court ... this is a really serious matter ... people can be killed or maligned if truth is brought forth ...” An in-house inquiry committee, headed by senior most judge Justice S A Bobde, has been constituted to deal with the complaint against the CJI. In its order, the top court asked the Directors of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Delhi Police Commissioner to ‘co-operate’ with Justice (retd) Patnaik as and when required by him during the inquiry.
The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta, left it to Justice (retd) Patnaik to take the assistance of ‘whosoever else’ he desires and requested him to submit a report in the court after the inquiry on allegations mentioned in the affidavits filed by advocate Utsav Singh Bains. The top court did not specify any time frame for Justice (retd) Patnaik to complete the inquiry.“Considering the factual gamut noted in the order quoted above and considering the affidavits filed by Utsav Singh Bains, advocate, we appoint Justice A K Patnaik, retired judge of this court, to hold an inquiry into the allegations made in the affidavits,” the bench said in its order.
“However, at the same time, we make it clear that this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving the Chief Justice of India. This is with respect to the contents of the affidavits, whether the affidavits are correct or not,” it said. “We again reiterate that the outcome of the inquiry shall not affect the in-house procedure/inquiry which is pending in the administrative side in any manner whatsoever,” it said. The bench directed the Secretary General of the apex court to ‘forthwith’ hand over the photocopies of affidavits and documents filed by Bains in a sealed cover to Justice (retd) Patnaik along with the order.
“The affidavits and the document (in original), in a sealed cover, shall remain in the custody of the Secretary General until further orders,” it said. In its order, the bench said, ‘As we are appointing Justice A K Patnaik (retd), we request the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to cooperate with the judge as and when their services are required at any point of time for the purpose of investigation of the matter, especially required by the judge.’ “We leave it to the judge to take the assistance of whosoever else his Lordship desires,” the bench said, adding, “We request Justice A K Patnaik (retd) to submit a report to this court on the basis of the inquiry as to the allegations mentioned in the affidavits.” The bench said the matter would be listed for hearing after inquiry report of Justice (retd) Patnaik is received by the court. The bench also dealt with the issue of privilege claimed by Bains over certain communications and said that he was bound to disclose all the information.
Referring to an earlier verdict of the apex court, the bench said, “It is apparent from the above decision that without production of the information, the court cannot be deprived of inspecting the document. The ground raised by Utsav Singh Bains as to privilege is wholly unsustainable. He is bound to disclose the information as may be required.” The bench referred to section 126 of the Evidence Act, which deal with professional communications and said that its provisos ‘make it clear that no such privilege can be claimed in respect of such communication’.
The bench also appreciated the services rendered by senior advocate and President of Supreme Court Bar Association Rakesh Kumar Khanna in assisting the court in the matter. Bains had filed an affidavit following the unprecedented hearing on Saturday during which Justice Gogoi had said some ‘bigger force’ was behind the harassment allegations as they wanted to ‘deactivate’ the CJI’s office. The hearing on April 20 in the case, titled as a matter of ‘great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary’, was held after stories were published on some news portals about harassment allegations levelled by a former employee of the apex court against the CJI.
Justice Indu Malhotra joins panel of inquiry as Justice Ramana opts out
AS Supreme Court judge Justice N V Ramana has recused from a three-judge inquiry panel constituted to probe the allegations of harassment made against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi by a former staffer of the top court, another Supreme Court judge Indu Malhotra was appointed as the third member of the in-house panel. Senior-most judge S A Bobde, who is heading the panel, has appointed Justice Malhotra to the committee. Justice Indira Banerjee is also part of the panel. The development came after the complainant wrote to the inquiry panel, objecting to Justice Ramana’s presence on the Committee. However according to sources, Justice Ramana in his letter to Justice S A Bobde has said that he is opting out so that the exercise is ‘not vitiated’. “Justice Ramana has recused and letter has been sent to Justice Bobde. It is a big three-page letter.
The recusal is not based on the grounds raised by the former woman employee. But it is done so that the whole exercise does not get vitiated,’ the sources said. The complainant had alleged that Justice Ramana apparently shared a close friendship with the Chief Justice and that she apprehended that eventually she may not get a fair hearing. The panel is headed by Supreme Court judge Justice S A Bobde and includes Justice Indira Banerjee besides Justice Ramana. In a letter to Justice Bobde, she also raised question over the presence of only one woman apex court judge -- Indira Banerjee -- in the panel to examine her allegations against the CJI which is not in accordance with Vishaka Guidelines. She said that as per the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka judgement, for holding inquiry into the allegations of harassment at work place, the committee must have a majority of women.
The woman was supposed to appear before the panel on Friday. The woman had also asked the panel to allow her to appear before it along with a lawyer and the proceedings of the committee be video recorded so that there can be no dispute about what transpired in the inquiry. In the letter, the official said, woman expressed concern over the statements made by the CJI when he sat on a bench on Saturday along with Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna.