New Delhi: The day-long drama surrounding the affidavit submitted by advocate Utsav Bains about a conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi involved startling submissions, heated arguments, temper tantrums, slighted honour, a demand for apology and a near-walkout.
On Wednesday, the judges met the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) along with the commissioner of Delhi Police to discuss Bains’ allegations, which was submitted in a sealed affidavit.
The three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta noted that the information given by Bains, 32, must remain confidential because it pertained to the alleged conspiracy to frame the CJI in a case of sexual harassment.
In that connection, the court directed the three officials to look into the relevant material submitted by Bains.
“He (Utsav) has in particular named Tapan Chakraborty and Manav Sharma in the affidavit,” the three-judge bench recorded in the order. “He has also mentioned certain names and alleged that they have certain tactics to fix the benches, the court noted in its order.”
Chakraborty and Sharma were fired by the top court in February for tampering with an order in a case related to industrialist Anil Ambani.
“This is a serious allegation raised by a young man who has his entire career in front of him and knows the consequences of filing false affidavit,” the bench observed.
‘Two inquiries must not overlap’
In his plea filed Monday, Bains submitted that the sexual harassment complaint was a ruse and part of a larger plot to get CJI Gogoi to resign.
Bains also spoke of a corporate head teaming up with a fixer, Romesh Sharma, to get the CJI to resign.
While adjudicating the matter, the court assured the bar that any order passed in this case would not affect the pending inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, a worry voiced by senior advocate Indira Jaising.
She pleaded that the two inquires should not overlap each other.
Appearing in person and not for the complainant, Jaising said the women lawyers were concerned about the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
“Our sole concern is that there is an independent inquiry into the affidavit filed by the former female employee,” Jaising asserted vociferously.
Jaising said both the allegations — of corporate interference and sexual harassment — can potentially undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The bench assured Jaising that the priority was to find the identity and existence of the fixers.
However, the arguments got heated when the bar and the bench argued over what is more urgent.
“We will inquire and inquire and inquire. Not only we, but you are in danger as well,” Justice Mishra told Jaising. “Should we keep our eyes shut to charges that judgments are being fixed?”
At the outset, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, who is assisting the court in this matter, pointed out that Bains’ Facebook post and submission were significantly different.
In his post Saturday, Bains had said that a group of disgruntled judges had conspired against the CJI. However, there is no mention of this in the affidavit, the top law officer said.
Bains also claimed partial privilege from disclosing all his sources. To this, the AG said: “I don’t understand how one can make certain allegations, and claim rest is privilege.”
To this, Bains took offence and tried to defend his honour, but the bar and the bench came together to Venugopal’s rescue and sought an apology from him.
When Bains did not comply, he was reprimanded by Justice Nariman. At one point, the judge even threatened to throw Bains out of the courtroom.
“You have no reason to doubt him (Venugopal). He is the most respected member of the bar. We all look up to him. If you have an iota of doubt, we will throw you out,” the judge said.
Bains then tried to walk out. “If his honour wishes to throw me out, I will walk out myself.”
The hearing ended when Justice Mishra stopped Bains from walking out and dished out advice on humility and submission.
The matter will continue to be heard Thursday.
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