By Rajesh Sinha
The role of Supreme Court registry is under a lens again for failing to put up to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi a letter from Unnao rape victim apprehending threat to her life.
Learning of the letter from reports, CJI Gogoi, taking suo motu cognisance, said he will hear the matter tomorrow, Thursday, Aug 1. The CJI assured that a judicial order would be passed to ensure the safety and better conditions for the rape survivor, said media reports.
Calling it a “highly volatile situation”, CJI Gogoi said he was informed about the letter only on Tuesday (July 30). The CJI asked why the court registry had not brought the letter to his attention.
“The letter has not been placed before me and newspapers flashed that CJI did not act,” Justice Gogoi said.
The letter written on July 12 came to light almost two days after a truck collided with their car on July 28. The collision, which happened near Rae Bareli, claimed the lives of two of the aunts of the victim. One of them was a key witness in the rape case in which the prime accused is a four-time BJP MLA from UP’s Bangermau, Kuldeep Singh Sengar. He was arrested last year in April.
In the letter, the rape survivor’s family complained that they were facing threats and intimidation from henchmen engaged by the accused and pleaded for providing adequate security. The letter stated that it was annexing a video-recording of the criminal intimidation and the photographs of the aggressors.
On Sunday, July 28, a truck rammed into the car in which the rape survivor was travelling near Rae Bareilly, killing her two aunts and leaving her and her lawyer critically injured.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is understood to have sought a report from the Supreme Court registry regarding the delay in forwarding the letter sent by family of Unnao rape survivor seeking protection from threat.
This is not the first instance of the questions arising about Supreme Court registry’s role. Several other instances were reported this year itself.
Delay in issuing notice on petition by rape survivor’s mother
A report in The Telegraph said that the SC registry had also delayed issuing notice to Kuldeep Singh Sengar in the petition filed by the rape survivor’s mother seeking transfer of trial of the case from Unnao to Delhi citing intimidation from the accused.
The bench of Justices SA Bobde and Abdul Nazeer had issued notices to the CBI and 14 respondents, including the BJP MLA on April 16. In the normal course, the matter ought to have been listed after four or six weeks. But in this case, it had not come up for hearing till date, The Telegraph reported.
The Supreme Court registry staff had not sent copies of the notice issued by the bench in April until June 28, the Telegraph report suggested.
Ideally, the copies should have reached all the respondents by registered post within a week or 10 days.
A report in The Hindustan Times said the notices were sent by the Supreme Court registry only on June 26, over two months after the court order. The report said that according to the mother’s lawyer, RK Reddy, the matter has not been listed since then.
According to an office report of the Supreme Court registry prepared on July 26, four suspects are yet to receive the court notice as the addresses given in the petition are “insufficient,” the HT reported,
None of the respondents, including the CBI, has so far filed any response to the plea to transfer the case, said The Telegraph. Notices could not be served by the registry on two of the accused apparently because their addresses could not be tracked by the postal department.
In the transfer petition, the mother had detailed how her husband died in custody and the relentless threats the family was facing to pressure them to withdraw the allegations against the BJP legislator.
SC decides to depute CBI, police officers to keep tab on wrongdoings in registry
Earlier this month, on July 8, CJI Gogoi, in his administrative capacity as head of the judiciary, taking note of allegations of listing of cases out of turn before various benches of the apex court, decided to appoint senior superintendents of police and superintendents of police from the CBI and Delhi Police to keep a tab on suspect listing of cases and other activities of employees and lawyers.
Recently, two members of the court staff were dismissed by the chief justice on the allegation of changing an order in a case related to an industrialist.
The apex court has also appointed a one-man enquiry panel after lawyer Utsav Bains made a sensational allegation that middlemen were active in getting cases listed as per their own wishes. The panel is headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Patnaik.
However, just a week after this, another instance cropped up on July 15 and the CJI came down heavily on the Registrar (Listing) over the deletion of a matter against specific directions.
In the morning, an Advocate pointed out that her matter which had been listed for Tuesday after being ‘mentioned’ on Friday happens to have been omitted from the causelist.
Dates for hearing Rafale deal review plea and contempt case against Rahul Gandhi
In May, a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had deferred a plea seeking review of its December 2018 judgment in the Rafale deal case to May 10 – because the Supreme Court registry had not tagged it along with the hearing on the contempt case against Congress president Rahul Gandhi, as specifically ordered by the court.
The Supreme Court registry had on its own listed it for a separate hearing instead.
On April 30, CJI Gogoi-led bench had dictated its order in open court that the two cases be listed for hearing on Monday, May 6. But in the copy of the order uploaded on the website of the Supreme Court, the two cases were to be listed separately: review petition on May 6 and contempt case on May 10, a day before the court recesses for summer vacation.
Tampering with order to exempt Anil Ambani from personal appearance in Ericsson contempt plea
On January 7, the apex court had turned down a request from industrialist Anil Ambani lawyers seeking exemption from his personal appearance in a contempt plea moved by Ericsson India against him.
Justice Nariman’s order was: “…personal appearance of the alleged contemnor(s) not dispensed with”.
However, when the order was uploaded on the website it read: “personal appearance of the alleged contemnor(s) dispensed with”.
This had been brought to the Court’s notice by Ericsson counsel and a corrected order was uploaded on the website on January 10.
After a preliminary inquiry, it was found that the omission of the word “not” in the order was not accidental. The two employees found responsible were sacked in an order passed by the CJI.