The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed Justice Retired AK Patnaik to head the inquiry into allegations raised by advocate Utsav Bains that there is a 'corporate' conspiracy to frame the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on charges of sexual misconduct.
The apex court also said that Patnaik would only hold a fact finding inquiry and not a judicial inquiry. It has directed the chiefs of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Delhi Police to cooperate with Justice AK Patnaik in the probe. He would submit his report in a sealed envelope.
The probe was ordered after Bains alleged that the CJI was being targeted by "bench fixers" and disgruntled employees. The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton F Nariman and Deepak Gupta is hearing the matter.
It said the outcome of the inquiry will not affect the in-house committee which is dealing with the complaint against the CJI.
The top court has also rejected the claim of privilege under Section 126 raised by Bains and has directed him to disclose all documents to the inquiry panel.
Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal said the claim of privilege under Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act is not applicable to any communication between Bains and the alleged fixers.
Venugopal said that a court can ask for any document relevant to a case.
Supporting the Attorney General's argument, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Rakesh Khanna submitted that there is "no sacrosanct right" to withhold any document.
The court has the power to seek production of documents over which privilege is claimed, Khanna said.
"Whatever he (Bains) divulged to us, in any case, our power to inspect the documents is there," Justice Nariman observed.
Asserting that powerful people will not be allowed to run the top court, a three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said that time has come to act against them. "The day has come to tell the rich and mighty that they cannot run the SC. They are playing with fire," the court said.
Bains had alleged on Wednesday that two former court masters, sacked for tampering an order in a case related to Anil Ambani, were involved in the plot to frame the CJI together with the female court staffer.
On 23 April, advocate Bains filed an affidavit alleging that the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi were a part of a larger conspiracy by ‘fixers and plotters’ to frame him.
Earlier on Thursday, he handed over to the SC bench hearing the case a sealed envelope, apparently containing an affidavit to corroborate his charges.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising told the court that the inquiry headed by Justice SA Bobde into the sexual harassment charge and the case before the court should be conducted together.
"We again clarify that the outcome of this inquiry (into the conspiracy charge) will not affect that inquiry (into the sexual harassment charge)," Justice Mishra said.
On Tuesday, a three-member committee of the apex court led by Justice Bobde, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, was formed to look into the allegation of sexual harassment made by a dismissed employee against Justice Gogoi.
The other two members of the committee are Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Justice Ramana is the third in the seniority list in the apex court and will the Chief Justice after the retirement of Justice Bobde.
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Updated Date: Apr 25, 2019 15:00:12 IST