The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to advocate Utsav Bains, who has filed an affidavit in the court claiming that the sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi are part of an attempt to frame the CJI, asking him to appear before the court on Wednesday morning with material to back up certain claims made by him.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta conducted a short hearing on Tuesday morning regarding the sexual harassment allegations, which has been registered as a suo motu writ petition by the court under the following complicated name:
“In Re: Matter of Great Public Importance Touching Upon the Independence of Judiciary - mentioned by Shri Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India.”
The matter was registered under this name on Saturday, 20 April, after CJI Gogoi conducted a special hearing in which he addressed the allegations against him, which were reported that morning in Scroll.in, Caravan, The Wire and The Leaflet. It is still unclear how exactly the case was registered and how fundamental rights are being threatened by the allegations (which is what writ petitions are for).
The case was only added to the list of cases being heard by the judges early in the morning on Tuesday, with the ‘cause list’ also mentioning that the affidavit filed by Bains was also going to be considered.
What Has the Lawyer Claimed?
- Bains had first made claims about the plot to frame the CJI in a Facebook post on 20 April, after the allegations surfaced.
- He said he had been approached to take up the case and organise a press conference, but that he grew suspicious and decided not to take the case. He claimed that he was offered upto Rs 1.5 crores to take up the case.
- He then said that he spoke to several reliable sources in Delhi, which led him to discover a conspiracy against CJI Gogoi by “a lobby of disgruntled judges, SC fixers, corporate scamsters and a few corrupt Politicians”.
- He also claimed that he didn’t go public initially because he says he was warned by well-wishers that the “lobby of judges who is planning this conspiracy will turn against me and harm me professionally.”
- However, he eventually went public on Facebook and also submitted an affidavit in the court on Monday, 22 April, in which he elaborated on the claims in more detail.
- Bains provides more details in the affidavit (which is available on his Facebook profile), although curiously, he makes no mention of judges being part of the conspiracy in the affidavit.
- Instead, in paragraph 17, he claims the conspiracy has been hatched by a “corporate figure who tried to approach an Hon’ble Supreme Court judge to get a favourable order in a high-profile case listed before this Hon’ble Court but was unsuccessful”.
- The unnamed corporate figure roped in an alleged fixer by the name of Romesh Sharma, who then “ganged up with disgruntled employees and former employees of the Supreme Court” to carry out the conspiracy.
- In paragraph 20 of his affidavit, Bains claims that he is “privy to certain events involving the said corporate figure and will submit in a sealed cover the events and list of the involved persons” to the apex court if it asks him to.
- Bains also claims that Romesh Sharma and his judgment fixer gang was already upset over how CJI Gogoi had cracked down on their racket after becoming CJI in October 2018.
- Bains also claims that Romesh Sharma also alleges connections between Romesh Sharma, Jet Airways owner Naresh Goyal and fugitive terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, without any evidence or claim that he even has evidence to prove the same.
What is the Court Doing About This?
The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra did not say anything about the claims made by the former employee who accused CJI Gogoi – also in an affidavit. They have not directed an investigation into her allegations, or issued a notice to her, even though her affidavit was filed first.
Instead, they issued notice to Bains only, and have asked him to submit evidence to support what he said in paragraphs 17 and 20 of this affidavit. It thus looks that even before inquiring into the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, the Supreme Court will instead inquire into the claims made by Bains.
The three-judge bench has directed Bains to appear before them in person at 10:30 am on Wednesday, 24 April. It remains to be seen whether the court will direct the material submitted by him to remain in a sealed cover (a practice that has been increasingly favoured by the court and CJI Gogoi).
The order passed by the court also directs the Delhi Police Commissioner to “provide adequate police protection” to Bains since he has said in the affidavit that he fears for his safety, and also directs the police to ensure Bains’ presence in court on Wednesday. Strangely, this was not mentioned by Justice Mishra during the proceedings when he pronounced the order.
Another strange issue that has come out of the record of proceedings of the court is that senior advocate Indira Jaising has been listed as appearing in court on Tuesday as a counsel for one of the parties, but not giving an appearance slip. However, Jaising is not representing any party to the case (at least at present) and was only present to observe the proceedings.
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