The Supreme Court today (Wednesday, April 24) asked advocate Utsav Bains to file additional affidavit to back his allegation that three former employees of the apex court conspired to frame the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in the sexual harassment case and make him resign.
The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, RF Nariman and Deepak Gupta asked the lawyer to file the affidavit by 10.30 am tomorrow when the court is scheduled to take up the matter again.
The court witnessed heated moments when Attorney General KK Venugopal had lengthy wordy duels with Bains. At one point, Bains accused the AG of targeting him and doubting his integrity.
At this point, an irked Justice Nariman said, “You have no right to doubt him. He’s the most respectable member of the bar. We all look up to him. If you say doubt, we will throw you out.”
At this, Bains said that he was “walking out of the court on his own”. There were other moments too, particularly when Senior Advocate Indira Jaising said “we the women lawyers are very concerned for the independence of judiciary and the integrity of the court.”
“I have a stake in this, a personal stake,” she said adding, “My only request is to set up an impartial and free inquiry. She said that she is not representing anyone and was is in the court in her own capacity. “Other women of the bar come to me and say we don’t feel safe anymore.”
At this point, Justice Nariman said, “This is not the purpose for which we are here.” He reminded her that the bench has been constituted only to hear Bains’ affidavit and nothing more. “Justice Mishra says this is a very serious issue, and we want to go to the root of the cause and we will inquire and inquire until it reaches a logical conclusion.”
Earlier, advocate Bains who claimed he was offered money to frame the CJI in a sexual harassment case, said the “mastermind behind the conspiracy is one of the biggest corporates in the country.”
Bains went on to file a second affidavit in the hearing. He said he had more crucial evidence and wanted to file another affidavit.
Justice Mishra told him to give a handwritten affidavit and not a typed one so that there is not even the remote possibility of the information being leaked by the typist. “We do not want evidence to be destroyed,” he said.
Bains submitted documentary evidence to the court in a sealed cover, claiming that the CCTV footage would reveal many things. “I have a CCTV footage, which is real evidence. I am submitting this in the court. The accused, the mastermind is very powerful,” said Bains.
Justice Mishra, speaking for the Bench after reading Bains’ fresh affidavit, said if the contents of the affidavits were true, “then this is really very disturbing”.
The court however made it clear that this will not affect the inquiry already set up by the court into charges levelled against CJI Gogoi by a former woman staffer.
“It’s a very serious issue about the independence of system…if it can be controlled from other corners,” said Justice Mishra.
Bains, in his affidavit submitted to the court, had said he “was informed by reliable sources that certain ‘fixers’, who claim to be engaged in illegally managing Judgments in exchange for cash are behind this plot as the Hon’ble CJI has taken decisive action to crack down on such fixers”.
Apparently touching upon this, the bench said it’s “very disturbing” to see the names of two employees who were dismissed from the court figure in connection with the controversy.
Justice Mishra referred to the recent dismissal of court staffers Manav Sharma and Tapan Chakravarthy for doctoring a court order in a contempt case between Anil Ambani and Ericsson in this context.
Referring to their dismissal, Justice Mishra elaborated “this action has been taken by CJI for first time in country. It has been happening before. But no CJI had the courage to it before…If there is collusion of employees, it’s very serious. If he (CJI) is taking action without looking at anyone, it shows his independence”.
The Bench then summoned the CBI, IB and Delhi Police chiefs for an in-chamber meeting to look into the material furnished by Bains.
Explaining why the three top officials have been called, Justice Mishra said “this is not just an inquiry, this is something more… We will not reveal anything. This will be kept totally a secret.”
The Bench ordered the Delhi Police to provide lawyer Utsav Singh Bains “full protection” so that no one approaches him to either influence or threaten him and the evidence he has with him of the conspiracy afoot is kept safe.
The three judges then met the three officers in their chambers at 12.30 pm on Wednesday and subsequently, the court met again at 3 PM.
Before adjourning, the bench made it clear that the in-house probe on allegations of sexual harassment would go on and another independent probe was needed on larger conspiracy on allegation to malign CJI.
At the fag end of the hearing, Bains told the court that he has some more very important and very critical piece of evidence related to the mater and he be allowed to file an additional affidavit. The bench allowed the request of Bains and said, “It should be handwritten and not typed.”