NEW DELHI :
Sexual harassment charges against the chief justice of India took a dramatic turn on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ordered “material evidence" in support of allegations of a conspiracy to be seized by law enforcement agencies, with one judge urging, “Inquire, inquire and inquire till we find out."
The case, titled ‘independence of the judiciary’, is being heard by a special bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Fali Nariman and Deepak Gupta. It concerns claims made by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains that the sexual harassment allegations by a former court worker against chief justice Ranjan Gogoi are part of a conspiracy and that he has evidence of it.
Separately, a panel of justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana and Indira Banerjee is enquiring into the sexual harassment charges.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court bench inspected material evidence of conspiracy charges handed over by Bains in a sealed envelope, and immediately ordered the content to be kept in “total confidentiality."
The envelope contains “highly sensitive information" which signals that Gogoi was “framed", the judges said.
The court immediately asked for the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police Commissioner to come to the Supreme Court for a meeting at 12:30pm.
The court “requested them to seize the relevant material in order to support the contents of the affidavit," it said in its order later.
It mentioned allegations that “disgruntled employees" had ganged up against the CJI after being dismissed from their jobs. The bench said Bains has mentioned sacked employees Manav Sharma and Tapan Kumar Chakaraborty. The woman who made sexual harassment allegations on 19 April was also dismissed in December last year on account of criminal cases against her.
The bench while referring to the sacking of the employees remarked that the CJI has been taking, “actions and actions without fear or hurt. These actions have been taken by the CJI for the first time in Indian judiciary, he wants to clean up the system."
“He (Bains) has named one fixer, but we want to go to the root. Who are those persons who are claiming to be fixers," Justice Mishra told the court, adding, “Inquire, inquire and inquire till we find out. Is the issue at clerical level or other levels we have to find out? Should we keep our eyes shut? The country will lose faith in judiciary."
The affidavit filed by Bains on Monday states that he was offered ₹1.5 crore to ‘frame’ the CJI.
The special bench on Wednesday ordered none of the submitted evidence will be revealed as “we don’t want any evidence to be removed or tampered with".
Bains submitted that he wants to file an additional affidavit pertaining to “concerned corporate houses" that are trying to bring down the CJI.
The Supreme Court then instructed him to write it down himself since a typist can also leak the evidence. Bains said he would type it out himself and file it in the court on Thursday.
The bench denied a request by senior lawyer Indira Jaising for the bar to be made part of the inquiry. The contents are, “very sensitive, hyper sensitive," the court said. Allegations have cropped up which state that there are “fixers" in the court who can “fix the bench of judges."