In law we trust
The controversy surrounding sexual harassment accusation against the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi got more complicated yesterday after a special bench of the Supreme Court addressed the affidavit submitted by Advocate Utsav Bains on the same. While a Supreme Court panel headed by Justice S A Bobde issued a notice to the former employee who sent her affidavit to 22 judges alleging sexual harassment, directing her to appear before the court on April 26, matters before the special bench led by Justice Arun Mishra regarding Bains' affidavit raised eyebrows. Bains' affidavit unveiled a man, identifying himself as a relative of the former SC employee, offering him up to Rs 1.5 crore to file a false case against CJI. However, when Bains asked him to be specific regarding his relationship with the former employee, the man grew evasive. Bains claimed that he is in possession of reliable information citing a larger plot at play against CJI where vested interests expressed interest in bringing down CJI through a false case which will enforce his resignation. Bains withheld more crucial information which he wanted to convey by filing a second affidavit but was abstained from doing so by Justice Mishra who advised him to pen it down so that there is not even a remote chance of the confidential details getting doctored. Justice Mishra implicitly referred to the recent dismissal of court staffers Manav Sharma and Tapan Chakravarthy for doctoring a court order in a contempt case between Anil Ambani and Ericsson. He further acknowledged the fact that CJI had been courageous and independent in leading SC cases and his nature might have irked some interests. He also observed how CJI's unprecedented move to sack two court masters – Manav Sharma and Tapan Kumar Chakraborty – for tampering with orders of the Supreme Court in Ericsson's contempt plea against Reliance Communications and Anil Ambani. Justice Mishra credited CJI with something that no other CJI had done and by his observation, it is natural that this sort of independent behaviour has upset some quarters. The contents of the affidavit submitted by Bains were considered so disturbing that the bench did not reveal its contents to anyone, not even senior counsel Indira Jaisingh. Receiving pertinent advice from the Attorney General (AG) and Solicitor General (SG) present in the court, the bench inquired about credible personnel to discuss this confidential matter behind the closed door. Bains was specifically irked by AG's constant interest in a Facebook post by him that he will file an affidavit in SC with evidence of "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 SC". But AG highlighted how Bains's affidavit filed in SC has no mention of the alleged lobby of disgruntled judged and corrupt politicians. Twice, AG pursued this and twice Bains had an outburst as he complained that AG was doubting his integrity. Justice Mishra asserted that the materials submitted by Bains alleged that the disgruntled employees of the SC had tried to frame the CJI. Connecting it to what CJI did with the court masters, this was a likely outcome.
While Bains' courage to come up directly before the law (judges) and trust them with the highly sensitive and confidential matter, which he believes would not have been appropriate to be taken to police or CBI reflects the seriousness of the issue. Asserting how CBI in the past has been used as a political tool and Police comes under the state (executive), Bains countered SG's advice of having the matter probed by SIT. Bains rightly stood on denying the involvement of anyone but law. The independence of the judiciary is under threat as asserted by CJI and given Bains's disclosure, it seems likely that some conspiracy is there which is yet to see the light of the day. While the Court said that it will decide if privilege can be claimed over the communications between Bains and the alleged conspirators, it remains to be seen what exactly this confidential information is. Bains's concern over the sensitivity of the issue was rightly reciprocated by the learned bench who will now dig to the root of the issue. This will certainly be instrumental in the alleged accusation against CJI and for "the independence of the judiciary".