Day 4 ArgumentsSexual Harassment & the CJI
April 25th 2019
Today, the Supreme Court directed retired Justice A.K. Patnaik to conduct an inquiry into the conspiracy allegations by Ustav Bains. Retired Justice Patnaik will be assissted by the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Commissioner of the Delhi Police.
A three-judge Special Bench of the Supreme Court is assessing whether the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI are a part of a larger conspiracy by corporates and corrupt political leaders against the office of the Chief Justice of India. The Bench comprises Justices Arun Misra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta.
The current Bench first heard the matter on Tuesday, April 23rd and requested the personal presence of Mr. Utsav Bains, the advocate claiming that he was offered a bribe of Rs. I.5 crores to frame the current Chief Justice of India, Mr. Ranjan Gogoi in the sexual harassment case. The next day, April 24th, Mr. Bains presented the Court with material evidence in a sealed cover. The Bench thereafter held an in chamber meeting with the Director of the CBI, the Chief of the IB, and the Delhi Commissioner of Police, before convening again in the afternoon, where Mr. Bains was directed to file an affidavit giving details of the alleged plot against the CJI by disgruntled former employees.
In today’s hearing, Mr. Bains submitted another set of documents in a sealed cover. After perusing the contents of the sealed cover, Justice Arun Misra sought the response of the Attorney General on the issue of privilege. In his original affidavit, Mr. Bains had claimed that he cannot name certain persons involved, claiming the communications were privileged under Section 126 of the the Evidence Act, 1872.
Attorney General Mr. KK Venugopal challenged Mr. Bains’s claim for privilege. Mr. Venugopal submitted that under Section 126 of the Act in question, privilege could be claimed for communications between the advocate and his/her client. Mr. KK Venugopal pointed out that Mr. Bains has no client. In his affidavit, Mr. Bains has merely submitted that an individual named Ajay had approached him with an offer of Rs. 50 lakhs. Further, Mr. Venugopal relied on Section 91 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 submitting that the Court had the power to summon any necessary documents.
At this point the Bench drew attention to the second proviso at the end of Section 126 and held that the Court was well within its power to inspect the documents that had been handed over by Mr. Bains in the sealed cover.
The claim for privilege was also refuted by Mr. Rakesh Khanna, the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, who submitted that no individual had the sacrosanct right to withhold documents. He substantiated his claim by referring to relevant Supreme Court case law.
Ms. Indira Jaising interjected to make submissions with the respect to the order passed by the Court yesterday. She voiced her concerns regarding the effect the present proceedings may have on the sexual harassment inquiry. Note that yesterday Ms. Jaising had requested the Court to record in its order that any other proceedings relating to the allegations against Gogoi would not be affected by these proceedings. Further she had sought for two separate inquiries to be conducted, but the Bench decline to oblige. Today, the Bench reiterated that it had clarified in its order yesterday that the internal inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment would not be affected by the current hearing. In addition, it expressed that it would not go into the allegations themselves, as it was looking into the conspiracy allegations.
Mr. Tushar Mehta repeated his suggestion for the constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the allegations and the issue of Bench fixing. The allegations of Bench fixing were also mentioned by Ms. Jaising in her submissions to the Court. A visibly agitated Justice Mishra voice his disappointment with the manner in which the judiciary was being treated in the past years with people writing letters and filing affidavits questioning whether the Registry of the Court can be allowed to be managed by muscle and money power.
The Bench will pass its orders in the matter at 2 PM
The Court directed retired Justice AK Patnaik to conduct an inquiry into the conspiracy allegations. He will receive assistance from the Director of the CBI, the Chief of the IB and the Commissioner of the Delhi Police.
The Court denied Utsav Bains privilege.