Home / India / SC closes suo motu proceedings to probe conspiracy to frame ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi

Too late to find corroborative evidence: Top court

SC closes suo motu proceedings to probe conspiracy to frame ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi

The three-judge bench arrived at the conclusion on the basis of a report submitted in a sealed cover by former Supreme Court judge A.K. Patnaik
Ranjan Gogoi.
Ranjan Gogoi.
File picture

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 19.02.21, 02:00 AM

The Supreme Court on Thursday “closed” the suo motu proceedings to probe an alleged corporate-underworld conspiracy to frame then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case but cited a retired judge’s report that said a plot “cannot be completely ruled out”.

The top court said “it is not possible to find corroborative evidence” of a conspiracy against Justice Gogoi, now a Rajya Sabha MP, as a long time had passed since the case emerged in 2019.


The three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian arrived at the conclusion on the basis of a report submitted in a sealed cover by former Supreme Court judge A.K. Patnaik.

Justice Patnaik had been tasked with probing the conspiracy alleged by advocate Utsav Singh Bains after Justice Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment by a female court employee.

Justice Gogoi was subsequently cleared of the allegations by an in-house panel headed by the present Chief Justice of India, Justice S.A. Bobde, and including Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. The accuser had withdrawn from the proceedings of the in-house panel on the ground that she was not being allowed legal representation.

She had accused Justice Gogoi of using his influence as the senior-most judge in the country to terminate her employment at the Supreme Court. In January last year, it was reported that she had been reinstated.

Justice Gogoi had retired in November 2019 and was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in March 2020.

Justice Patnaik had submitted the report in October 2019. On Thursday, the Supreme Court bench said: “…The report also acknowledges that the existence of a conspiracy cannot be completely ruled out and this has been so opined as Justice A.K. Patnaik has not been able to obtain various records including electronic records of WhatsApp, Telegram, etc….”

The bench noted that Justice Patnaik had recorded in the final paragraph of his sealed-cover report that the director of the Intelligence Bureau had in a letter dated July 5, 2019, stated “that on account of the then Chief Justice of India taking serious tough decisions like in the case relating to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), there was strong reason to believe that persons who were unhappy with those decisions hatched a conspiracy against the then Chief Justice of India”.

Justice Kaul said a reference had also been made to “certain tough administrative decisions taken to streamline the process in the registry”.

Bains, the lawyer, had claimed in a Facebook post on April 20, 2019, that he had been approached by a person for help to hold a media conference in exchange for money to accuse the then Chief Justice of sexual harassment. The media conference did not take place.

Before Bains made the claim, the employee had already levelled the allegations against Justice Gogoi.

After Bains made the allegations, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra (now retired) took suo motu cognisance and appointed Justice Patnaik to investigate the claims.

Justice Kaul, heading the bench that passed the order on Thursday, said that after going through the Justice Patnaik report, “…we find that it is quite comprehensive” and had “dealt with the scope of the enquiry, the materials and the findings and the conclusions along with the list of annexures and articles”.

“We have to keep in mind that the remit of the committee was not to enquire into the merits of the allegations made by the complainant against the then Chief Justice of India and this aspect has been noted in the report itself. The learned judge has thus recorded in the report that he has confined his examination to only one aspect i.e. the veracity of the version put forward by Mr Utsav Singh Bains,” the order said.

“The report has also taken note of the limited investigative powers and access to records which it had and based on those materials and evidence before him, it has been opined that it is not possible to find corroborative material qua the allegations of Mr Utsav Singh Bains made in the affidavit.

“We are also of the view that two years having passed and the possibility of recovery of electronic records at this distance of time is remote, especially since the scope of the enquiry and the power of the learned judge is limited, no useful purpose will be served by continuing these proceedings.

“As a result of our observations aforesaid, the proceedings are accordingly closed and the suo motu petition is disposed of. The report which has been opened be placed back in a sealed cover.”

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