Justice Patnaik panel submits report on ‘fixing of benches’ to SC in sealed cover

Seema Chishti
The report has been submitted in a sealed cover , as mandated by the bench which appointed the panel. Sources say Justice Patnaik is in Paris till October.

The one-person Justice A K Patnaik Committee, looking into charges of possible fixing of benches in the Supreme Court, has submitted its report to the apex court.

The one-judge panel was constituted as part of the process which came into play after charges of sexual allegations were made against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi by a junior employee in his office. Subsequently, an advocate Utsav Bains spoke of a conspiracy against the topmost Court.

In an order in April, a special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, also comprising Justices Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, said, Considering the factual gamut and the affidavits filed by advocate Utsav Singh Bains, we are appointing Justice AK Patnaik, retired judge of this court, to hold inquiry into the allegations levelled in the affidavit filed by Bains. The bench had clarified that he would not deal with the allegations of misbehaviour by the CJI .

The in-house committee probing allegations of harassment concluded its findings separately and Justice Patnaik started his probe only after that committee completed its work.

Justice Patnaik resumed his work after the court vacations, called for a lot of material from the courts and investigative agencies and also held extensive interviews with the Directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Delhi s Police Commissioner. Advocate Utsav Bains was also summoned by Justice Patnaik and heard last month.

The report has been submitted in a sealed cover , as mandated by the bench which appointed the panel. Sources say Justice Patnaik is in Paris till October.

It was in an extraordinary sitting on April 20, after allegations of harassment against the Chief Justice became public, that the CJI termed the complaint as an attempt to deactivate the office and a conspiracy to threaten the independence of the judiciary.

The following week, a separate bench took cognizance of a Facebook post by advocate Bains, alleging a possible conspiracy against the office of the CJI, and indicating that the harassment complaint was part of that effort. Later, a full court ordered the setting up of an in-house committee to probe the complaint and mandated the second most senior judge in the apex court, Justice SA Bobde, to hear the matter.The composition of the in-house panel changed after the recusal of Justice NV Ramana following which both the complainant and the CJI appeared before the committee. However, the complainant left the proceedings midway after stating that she was dissatisfied with the procedure. Meanwhile, sitting judge, Justice DY Chandrachud, wrote a letter to the Committee raising questions of propriety and justice.

The Bobde committee concluded that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations against the CJI and maintained that a former Supreme Court order prevented it from making its report public.