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Seize evidence on conspiracy against top judge: SC orders CBI, Intel Bureau

The committee, headed by justice SA Bobde, and comprising justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee, is to begin its in-camera hearing of the issue on Friday.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2019 23:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,CBI,sexual harassment allegations
The three-judge bench set up to address the issue of an affidavit filed by a Chandigarh-lawyer, Bains, said it would “ enquire, enquire and enquire till we get to the root of the issue.”(Amal KS/HT FILE PHOTO)

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court signalled its determination to get to the bottom of the claims made by a lawyer, Utsav Bains, who alleged there was a larger conspiracy behind the sexual harassment allegations against the Chief Justice of India (CJI), and has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Bureau, and the Delhi Police to look into them.

Separately, the former Supreme Court staffer, who accused CJI Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, on Wednesday wrote to the three-member inquiry committee set up to hear the issue, expressing her reservation and concern on the composition of the committee .

The committee, headed by justice SA Bobde, and comprising justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee, is to begin its in-camera hearing of the issue on Friday.

In a letter written to the members of the inquiry committee, the former staffer claimed that justice Ramana is very close to the Chief Justice of India and almost a family member and with “him being on the panel I suspect I will not get a free and objective hearing in the matter.”

Meanwhile, the three-judge bench set up to address the issue of an affidavit filed by a Chandigarh lawyer, Bains, said it would “ enquire, enquire and enquire till we get to the root of the issue”.

Bains, in an April 22 affidavit, said there were bigger forces at work behind the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against the CJI.

In his affidavit, Bains claimed that he was offered a bribe to conduct a media briefing in favour of the former staffer. Bains also said that there is a “conspiracy against the Chief Justice to force him to resign and to threaten every judge of the Supreme Court”.

Taking cognisance of the affidavit filed by Bains, the three-judge bench of justices Arun Mishra, RF Nariman and Deepak Gupta said that the assertions made in the affidavit are very serious and affect the administration of justice and need to be investigated.

“We will inquire and go to the root of alleged claims of fixers at work and manipulating the judiciary. If they continue to work then none of us will survive... Fixing has no role to play in the system. We will inquire,” said justice Arun Mishra.

Bains referred to the two Supreme Court clerks recently dismissed by the CJI and claimed they were working with the former staffer, in a fresh affidavit filed on Wednesday.

Taking umbrage over the possible involvement of Supreme Court employees, justice Mishra observed: “No CJI had the courage to take the action against certain elements. This has been happening in the past also but no CJI has taken action. CJI Gogoi wanted to clean the system. In high courts too, such incidents happen but no action is taken.”

The two law clerks are believed to have deliberately made a mistake while typing out an order of the court so as to benefit one of the parties. They have both been dismissed and also face charges.

After going through the affidavit, the three-judge bench summoned and met the director of the Ce ntral Bureau of Investigation, the commissioner of Delhi Police, and the director of the Intelligence Bureau over the case. The court asked them to investigate the charges in the affidavit and also seize relevant material in order to support the contents of the affidavit.

The court has asked Bains to file a new affidavit on Thursday, when the matter will be heard again.

Passing an order at the end of the hearing, the court also clarified that there was no connection between Wednesday’s hearing over the lawyer’s allegations of a conspiracy against the CJI and the three-judge panel’s probe into harassment charge.

The order means that the hearing will continue independently. The three-member committee of sitting Supreme Court judges was set up on Tuesday to look into the sexual harassment allegations levelled by a former woman staffer of the top court after a full-court resolution was passed to the effect.

A notice was sent from the Supreme Court to the former staffer on Tuesday asking her to remain present before the committee on Friday at 12.30pm.

Responding to the notice served on her, the staffer in her letter said that while she will be present, she has some concerns and questions about the composition of the committee.

She also wrote that the court should follow its own judgment in the Vishakha case and follow the guidelines laid down for probing allegations of sexual harassment.

“Every inquiry committee must have a majority of women members and an external woman member with knowledge of human rights and women’s issues,” reads the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by HT.

The woman has also requested the committee to allow her assistance of a lawyer while appearing before it.

The staffer has also demanded video recording of the entire proceedings before the committee so there is no dispute as to what transpires during the proceedings.

First Published: Apr 24, 2019 23:50 IST