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Retired Supreme Court judge Justice AK Patnaik has said he would not start probing the alleged conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a fake sexual harassment case till the in-house inquiry into the woman staffer’s allegations against Gogoi is completed.

“I am not going to start until the in-house inquiry is over. If you see the Supreme Court order [of April 25], I have not been given a time limit, like 15 or 20 days, to complete my assignment… I think to avoid any clash with the Justice Bobde Committee inquiry, I will wait for them to finish… Let that be over,” Justice Patnaik told The Hindu newspaper.

The Special Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, which appointed Justice Patnaik on April 25, had, however, said a probe into the “larger plot” would not queer the inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint.

Justice Patnaik’s decision means the complainant would have no reason to fear prejudice.

The priority, Justice Patnaik said, is now the in-house inquiry into her complaint. The panel conducting the in-house inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations comprises Justices SA Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. It heard the complainant yesterday (Friday, April 26).

Justice (retired) Patnaik was tasked by the Special Bench to examine the claims made by a young lawyer, Utsav Singh Bains, that a powerful lobby of fixers, disgruntled apex court employees and corporate figures are targeting the CJI and the highest judiciary. Bains has even claimed in his affidavit that a man claiming to be the complainant-woman’s relative offered him up to Rs. 1.5 crore to file a false case against the CJI.

During the hearing of Bains’ claims, the bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, had said it will not allow the “rich and powerful” to run the country with money. “He [Bains] has said that there are fixers,” Mishra had said. “We need to find out who are these fixers. We will inquire and inquire and inquire and take it to logical conclusion.”

The complainant in the sexual harassment case used to work as a junior court assistant at the top court. On April 19, she wrote to 22 Supreme Court judges, alleging that Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11.

In the affidavit, the woman said that after she rebuffed the chief justice, she was moved out of his residence office, where she had been posted in August. Two months later, on December 21, she was dismissed from service. One of the three grounds for dismissal, as detailed in an inquiry report, was that she had taken casual leave for one day without approval. She has alleged that her family is being persecuted after the incident and her husband and brother-in-law, both posted with the Delhi Police as head constables, were suspended.

Gogoi denied the allegations during a special hearing on April 20. The chief justice said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations and that they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”. Gogoi said the woman has a criminal background, with two cases against her.

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