- Lawyer Utsav Bains has claimed a conspiracy to frame Chief Justice
- Ex-Supreme Court employee has accused Chief Justice of sex harassment
- He has denied allegations, saying judiciary's independence "under threat"
The Supreme Court today ordered a probe headed by retired judge Justice AK Patnaik into lawyer Utsav Singh Bains's claims of a conspiracy to discredit Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi with sex harassment allegations. The top court, though, made it clear that Justice (Retd.) Patnaik will not look into the allegations against the Chief Justice which is being looked into by an in-house panel.
Minutes after the top court's order, Justice NV Ramana dropped out of the three-member in-house committee that was formed on Tuesday to look into the sex harassment complaint against the Chief Justice. The complainant, a former Supreme Court employee, had written to the panel yesterday, expressing reservation over Justice Ramana's inclusion in the panel.
The Supreme Court also directed the chief of the CBI, Intelligence Bureau and the Delhi Police to cooperate with Justice (Retd.) Patnaik as and when he needed.
Earlier today, the court - while examining an affidavit by lawyer Utsav Bains - noted that the allegations of "bench fixing are so serious that it requires investigation".
"The day has come when we have to rise and tell the powerful and rich people - you can't run the institution," said the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, RF Nariman and Deepak Gupta. "Whenever big persons are involved these things are happening."
Utsav Bains, in his affidavit, said he was offered Rs 1.5 crore by one Ajay to represent a former employee of the Supreme Court and arrange a press conference against Chief Justice Gogoi at the Press Club.
The Chief Justice of India has strongly denied the allegations, asserting that the independence of the judiciary is "under threat" and it was being made a "scapegoat".
The court said it wanted to know who approached Utsav Bains and expressed concern about the "fixing game".
"Rich and powerful of this country are playing with fire and this must stop. People try to run by money power. When someone tries to improve malign them, kill them. This can't go on," it said.
"The fixing thing is serious. Don't think that Supreme Court can be remote controlled by anything on earth, whether money power or political power... The way this institution has been treated in last few years, we must say that we will not survive if this will happen."
"There is a systematic attack, systematic game to malign this institution," the court said.
Yesterday too, the judges used strong words while considering the case. "We have to find out the truth. Is there any fixing going on here? The entire country will lose faith if we shut our eyes... In case this affidavit is false, we will not tolerate it," they had said.
The unprecedented allegations against a top judge of the country have added to a series of setbacks the judiciary has been facing over the last year - starting with a press conference in January 2018 by four of the senior-most judges who spoke against the Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Later, an attempt was made by the opposition parties to impeach Justice Dipak Misra.
On Tuesday, the full court, after a meeting, set up a three-judge bench to look into the allegations against Justice Gogoi.
The judges met the CBI chief, the chief of the Intelligence Bureau and the chief of Delhi Police and asked them to look into the documents submitted by Utsav Bains in a sealed cover.