Supreme Court: A special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ has reserved its order on the issue of setting up an inquiry committee to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case. The bench will pronounce its order later in the day.
During the course of the hearing, advocate Utsav Bains, who made the claim about a conspiracy to frame Justice Gogoi, submitted an additional affidavit on the direction of the court. In his affidavit, Bains submitted that he cannot share the names of the “fixers” as “privileged communication under the Advocates Act” cannot be disclosed.
Attorney General KK Venugopal said the claim of privilege under Section 126 of the Evidence Act is not applicable to any communication between Bains and the alleged fixers. He 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. He said that the court has the power to seek production of documents over which privilege
“Whatever he (Bains) divulged to us, in any case, our power to inspect the documents is there,”
Mishra, J said,
“There is systematic attempt/game, so many things have not come out. The truth has not come out. These things are in the air for a long time and people of the country must know the truth. There has been a systemic attack against the Supreme Court,”
“We are in anguish the way this institution is being treated for the last 3-4 years is as if this institution will die. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala, K Parasaran. … Every day we hear about bench-fixing, every day we hear of wrong practices in this court. This has to go. The day has come when we have to rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot run the Supreme Court. … Don’t provoke us anymore. We want to tell the rich and the powerful that they are playing with fire. This is not the way a country can run,”
Senior advocate Indira Jaising told the court that the inquiry headed by Justice S A Bobde into the sexual harassment charge and the case before the court should be conducted together.
Mishra, J, however, clarified that that the outcome of this inquiry into the conspiracy charge will not affect that inquiry into the sexual harassment charge. He remarked,
“Three to five per cent lawyers are giving a bad name to this institution. Don’t provoke us any further, we are worried as judges. We will see
how it can be an independent inquiry.”
On Tuesday, a three-member committee of the 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 Supreme court and will the Chief Justice after the retirement of Justice Bobde.