18 Feb 2021: Sexual harassment case: SC doesn't rule out conspiracy against ex-CJI
The Supreme Court thinks that former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, who was accused of sexual harassment by a former staffer, could have been a victim of a conspiracy.
Yet, the apex court believed it was just to close the suo motu proceedings as the matter was nearly two years old and it was difficult to retrieve electronic records for an investigation.
Background: What was the matter all about?
In April 2019, a junior staffer had sent an affidavit to 22 judges, alleging that Gogoi touched her inappropriately in October 2018.
Gogoi rubbished the allegations and went on to say that the court was under attack. Later, he was given a clean chit by a three-judge bench including Justices SA Bobde, Indira Banerjee, and Indu Malhotra.
The verdict left the alleged victim disappointed.
Conspiracy: Top court never remained averse to the conspiracy angle
When the serious allegations surfaced, the top court also toyed with the idea that it could be a part of a "larger conspiracy."
A bench of Justices Arun Misra, RF Nariman, and Deepak Gupta ordered that a Committee, headed by former SC judge AK Patnaik, would probe this possibility.
Lawyer Utsav Bains also filed an affidavit alleging the same.
Decisions: Gogoi's position on Assam NRC, registry could have triggered conspiracy
Today, the top court said that an Intelligence Bureau report submitted to Justice Patnaik Committee spoke about some people being unhappy with Gogoi's tough stance on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
The Committee also implied that the former CJI's decision to streamline the SC registry could have also acted as a trigger to level such allegations against him.
Fact: Report acknowledged the existence of a conspiracy: SC
"The Justice Patnaik report acknowledges the existence of a conspiracy against the ex-Chief Justice and it cannot be ruled out. Certain tough administrative decisions were taken to streamline the process in the registry," a three-judge bench, led by Justice SK Kaul, said.
Order: Limited access to records drove SC's latest decision
Despite the Committee's findings, the bench, also including Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, wrapped up the proceedings initiated to examine conspiracy.
"The veracity of the allegations leveled by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains could not be verified completely due to the limited access of records and other collaborative material," observed the bench.
Hence, "no purpose will be served in continuing these proceedings."