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One-man panel to look into 'larger conspiracy' affecting Supreme Court

The top court said the inquiry will not deal with allegations of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice, levelled by a former court employee

By The Telegraph and PTI in New Delhi
  • Published 25.04.19, 4:00 PM
  • Updated 25.04.19, 4:03 PM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
The apex court said that on the completion of the inquiry, Justice (retd) Patnaik will file a report in a sealed cover before the court after which the matter will be heard again. Telegraph file picture

The Supreme Court on Thursday constituted a one-man panel to hold an inquiry into allegations of a larger conspiracy of fixers and politicians plaguing the top court that could have led to fixing of benches and has supposedly targeted the position of the chief justice.

The apex court named former apex court judge A.K. Patnaik as the one-man panel and asked the directors of the CBI and the IB and the Delhi police commissioner to cooperate with him as and when sought by him during the inquiry.

The top court said that the inquiry will not deal with the allegations of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice which have been levelled by a former court employee.

It said the outcome of the inquiry will not affect the in-house committee which is dealing with the complaint against the CJI.

The apex court said that on the completion of the inquiry, Justice (retd) Patnaik will file a report in a sealed cover before the court after which the matter will be heard again.

The allegation that a larger conspiracy was on to frame Chief Justice Gogoi surfaced when advocate Utsav Bains said he had been offered Rs 1.5 crore to represent the woman in the case.

While Bains has made allegations of corporate lobbies and fixers, senior lawyer Indira Jaising has asked the court t seek a sworn affidavit from him about his credentials.

Jaising's main concern seems to be that Bains should not emerge as a source of vested interest. His allegations are directly linked to the woman's complaint against CJI Gogoi. Bains had alleged that the sexual harassment charge against Gogoi was conspiracy to unseat him. 

In another development, Justice N.V. Ramana, who was on the three-member in-house inquiry panel set up to examine the allegations of sexual harassment, recused himself from it on Thursday.

Justice Ramana opted out of the headed by Justice S.A. Bobde a day after the former apex court employee wrote to the panel expressing reservations over the inclusion of the judge. She said Justice Ramana is a close friend of the Chief Justice of India and a regular visitor to his house.

According to an official, the woman wrote: "I would humbly suggest that since I was posted in the CJI's residence office, I know that Justice Ramana is a close friend of the CJI and is like a family member to him.

"Justice Ramana is a frequent visitor to the residence of the CJI. Because of this I fear that my affidavit and evidence will not receive an objective and fair hearing."

The woman is scheduled to appear before the panel on Friday.

In the letter to Justice Bobde, she also raised a question over the presence of only one woman judge -- Indira Banerjee -- on the panel to examine her allegations, which she said is not in accordance with the Vishaka guidelines.

She said that according to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, for holding inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace, the committee must have a majority of women.

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 letter, the official said, the 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.

The committee headed by Justice Bobde, the senior-most apex court judge, was appointed on Tuesday and he inducted Justices Ramana and Banerjee into it.

"I decided to have Justice Ramana in the panel as he is next to me in the seniority and Justice Banerjee as she is a woman judge," he had said on Tuesday. "This is going to be an in-house procedure which does not contemplate representation of advocate on behalf of parties. It is not a formal judicial proceeding," he said.

He had clarified that there is no time frame to complete the inquiry and future course of action will depend on "what comes out of the inquiry" which will be "confidential".