After Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment by a former staffer of the Supreme Court, a young lawyer, in a Facebook post, claimed that it was a "conspiracy against the CJI by a lobby of disgruntled judges, SC fixers, corporate scamsters and a few corrupt politicians " all who have meticulously planned the conspiracy to force the CJI to resign as their 'corrupt works were not going through" in the Supreme Court.
On 22 April, Utsav Bains, the lawyer, filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court with details of the supposed conspiracy. In the affidavit, Bains claimed that a conspirator had offered him a "bribe of Rs 50 lakh to represent the said complainant and also to organise a press conference", and when he refused to do so, the bribe was increased to Rs 1.5 crore.
While the allegations of sexual harassment against the incumbent CJI are significant and can cause irreparable damage to the institution, it was Bains' claims that left the fraternity more shocked.
Bains, a lawyer who began his legal career from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, is known to represent the "underprivileged" pro bono in cases. He was the counsel of the victim in the Asaram Bapu rape case, though his most prominent case was in the Rohtak shelter home scandal, wherein the sexual and physical assault of more than 100 women and children came to light after a raid in 2012.
While this is not the first case where Bains is "fighting for a cause", it is also not the first time he has claimed to have been offered a bribe. According to a post he shared on Facebook on 13 February, he was offered Rs 45 crore in the Asaram case.
The post read, "Just a few minutes back, I got offer of 35 cr in Asaram's case. To not put important evidence in the application to make Asaram an accused " the video recording of gangster Kartik Haldar where he says Asaram asked him to kill Akhil Gupta. When I refused, he said 45 cr. That's when I blocked him. He's a member of the bar and his father, a person known for his honesty. What an ashamed person his father would be if I disclose his name to the media. 45 cr so Asaram is not hanged to death for rape of scores of children. Morality at its lowest. I'll be at the Muzaffarnagar court tomorrow demanding his death sentence. Good Night!."
Bains is a third-generation lawyer. His grandfather AS Bains was a judge in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and his father RS Bains is a respected human rights lawyer based in Chandigarh. He graduated with a degree in law from Panjab University and was involved in activism since his university days. Bains was vocal on child rights issues, and his role in the Apna Ghar case was important as he was appointed a member of the committee, comprising four advocates, constituted to look into the conditions of the inmates at the shelter home. In 2014, he attended a research programme on child rights advocacy at Harvard Law School.
Bains, who has also been vocal on the problem of drug abuse in Punjab and a host of other issues, is well versed with ways to remain in news. In April, British Deputy High Commissioner in the Chandigarh organised a party to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. Apart from VP Singh Badnore, the Chief Administrator of Chandigarh who declined the invitation, Bains was the other invitee who refused to be part of the celebration. Why? "A study on the complicity of the British Empire in the deaths of 30 lakh Indians during the Bengal famine of 1943."
He claimed credit for the snub to the royal invite and wrote on Facebook: "The spark has begun a fire: after my refusal, the Governor of Punjab also decided to give the Queen's birthday party a miss. Hope others follow suit. High time the British royal family and prime minister apologise for the horrifying human rights violations committed in India!"
Bains has been at the centre of a debate since he came out with this "conspiracy theory" against the judiciary. He is set to file another affidavit in the Supreme Court on Thursday, detailing evidence to support his allegations.
On Wednesday, Bains was at the receiving end of Justice Rohinton Nariman's ire after he countered Attorney General KK Venugopal for making a "personal attack". He had claimed "privilege" over some of the documents and claims made in the affidavit, after which Justice Arun Mishra said he wanted clarified whether privilege can count in the wake of his allegations and claims of a conspiracy against the judiciary.
To this Venugopal, said, "I really don't understand that a person says there is a conspiracy but only produces half the evidence."
At this point in the hearing, Bains countered the attorney general, claiming that Venugopal had made been making personal attacks since the case began to be heard, for which he received a stern warning from Justice Nariman to not malign the attorney general.
Earlier during the hearing, when Venugopal highlighted some departure in Bains's affidavit from his Facebook post, the lawyer had reacted sharply by saying that "the bench is divided" and he is disgusted by this. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta did not take well to this reaction and sought an apology from Bains, who refused to do so.
While in his Facebook post, Bains claimed he has "never associated with any kin or kith of SC judges as a principle of having a clean legal practice and refusing to be institutionalised in nepotism or be a member of the uncle judges young lawyer club", senior advocate Indira Jaising questioned his credentials and sought an affidavit from him to prove his qualifications.
Bains has often tried to prove that he is on the right side of the "cause" by claiming that in the Supreme Court, he had only been associated with the likes of "Prashant Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal and with Anupam Gupta in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who are all known for standing against financially corrupt and morally corrupt judges and against judicial nepotism, fearlessly". However, the most important and crucial test of Bains will be whether he succeeds in proving the veracity of his claims made in the affidavit.