(Picture: Supreme Court of India website)

Dismissed Court Masters Feature In Alleged Conspiracy Against Chief Justice Of India

There’s a fresh twist in the case of sexual harassment allegations against the Chief Justice of India and a counter claim by a Delhi lawyer that these allegations are an effort to frame the judge. The lawyer, Utsav Bains, has claimed in his affidavit that the conspirators include two court masters that were recently dismissed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

This became evident when a three-judge bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta heard Bains today. Bains claimed two of the conspirators had met earlier and that he would like to file another affidavit – for which the court gave him time till Thursday 10:30 a.m. So far, Bains has filed two affidavits.

One, that is public, alleges the lawyer was approached with a bribe to organise a press conference for the court employee who has alleged sexual harassment by Justice Gogoi. It also claims that certain fixers, businesspersons and politicians were involved in a conspiracy to frame the judge.

The second affidavit was filed in a sealed cover which, based on the judges conversation in open court, indicates that the two dismissed court masters—Manav Sharma and Tapan Kumar Chakraborty—were part of the conspiracy.

Also read: Chief Justice Gogoi Says Sexual Harassment Allegations Are Attempt To Undermine Judicial Independence

Tapan and Manav were dismissed in February and later arrested in April. While the Supreme Court has not made public the reasons for their dismissal it has been reported that they were accused of altering a judicial order to benefit a large corporate.

Justice Arun Mishra, heading the bench, said the court needs to look into the allegations by Bains as it affects the reputation of the judiciary.

He has said that “there are fixers. Who are these fixers we need to find out who are these fixers. We will inquire and inquire and inquire and take it to logical conclusion”.

“Considering the seriousness of the allegations as the system has absolutely no place for such fixers, we cannot leave the matter at that. It becomes our responsibility to keep this institution clean as well as to ensure that the image of this institution is not tarnished by such allegations to undertake the probe in the matter,’’ the order said.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared in a personal capacity, sought to draw the court’s attention to the affidavit filed by court employee alleging sexual harassment by the Chief Justice. She argued for a “free, fair and impartial” investigation into that. She also expressed concern about two parallel investigations. The one by this three-judge bench and another being the in-house enquiry into the allegations. A Supreme Court committee, headed by Justice SA Bobde and including Justice NV Ramanna and Justice Indira Banerjee, has been set up to examine the allegations.

Responding to Jaising, Justice Nariman said the bench will only hear the conspiracy allegations made by Bains. And that these hearings will not prejudice the in-house inquiry.

The three-judge bench said it was determined to get to the bottom of the conspiracy allegations. Earlier in the day they summoned the Central Bureau of Investigation chief, Delhi Police Commissioner and the chief of the Intelligence Bureau in the same matter. But what transpired in that meetings has not been disclosed.

“We are taking up the matter so as to ascertain the correctness of the averments made in the affidavit, to ascertain the various aspects which have been mentioned which cannot be done without proper investigation and any order passed on judicial side by this court shall not affect the matter on administrative side,’’ the court’s order said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has suggested that should be a Special Investigation Team set up to investigate the claims made by Bains. The hearing will continue tomorrow.

Also read: Chief Justice Of India Faces Sexual Harassment Charges - The Story So Far