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Ex-judge AK Patnaik to probe conspiracy angle in CJI sexual harassment matter

New Delhi, April 25, 2019-

In a major development, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a probe by a former judge of the apex court Justice A K Patnaik into allegations about conspiracy against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who has been accused of sexual harassment by a woman.

The top court also directed the Directors of the CBI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) besides the Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with Justice Patnaik as and when required.

The court gave the directions during a hearing on an affidavit filed by advocate Utsav Bains, who has alleged a conspiracy against the Chief Justice after a former Supreme Court staffer alleged sexual harassment.

Justice Patnaik, after completing his probe, shall file the report before the bench in a sealed cover, the top court said.

It said the case will be listed after J. Patnaik files his report.

The bench also said that the inquiry by Justice Patnaik shall not affect the proceedings of the Supreme Court.

While ordering the Justice Patnaik inquiry, the court said Bains would be bound to disclose all documents. Earlier, Bains had claimed that he had sensitive information that cannot be disclosed.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, while speaking to reporters after the order, said the Chief justice cannot be the master of the roster anymore and that his administrative and judicial work should be suspended till the sexual harassment allegations against him are looked into.

She added that all the former staffers of the SC are witnesses in the case and questioned how the Chief Justice, being their ex-boss, could continue in this scenario.

Earlier, during the hearing by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, Jaising asked the court to probe the credentials of Utsav Bains, saying people who come to court, must come with clean hands.

She said the bench is heavily consumed in probing the defence of the Chief Justice who is facing allegations of sexual harassment.

She contended that such influence on the investigation would prejudice the complaint by the former staffer of the top court against the Chief Justice.

The bench assured her that the investigation would be independent.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta intervened by recommending the formation of an SIT, but Jaising protested and requested the court to conduct a judicial inquiry.

As per the Solicitor General’s suggestion regarding the formation of SIT into the matter, the bench said “we can look into this aspect of investigation.”

The court also clarified that this probe would not prejudice the complaint made by the woman against the Chief Justice.

The bench told Mehta that this is a very serious matter, and “we want to get to the root of this bench fixing issue, and the issue is so serious that we cannot divulge the details.”

The bench observed that some fixer who claims to be a relative of the woman, who leveled sexual harassment charges against the Chief Justice, approached Utsav Bains for removal of the Chief Justice.

“We don’t know the identity of this person….we need to find out the truth,” said the bench.

The top court said some rich and powerful people want to control its functioning and asserted that the “fixers” must go.

“People with money power are trying to run the registry of the top court…this is a really serious matter…people can be killed or maligned if truth is brought forth…,” the bench said.

Justice Mishra said, after learning about the alleged network that is trying to manipulate the Supreme Court, “we are in anguish”.

He added that the bench has come to know these fixers are usually represented by senior advocates in the Supreme Court.

“We want to tell the rich and powerful of this country that they cannot run the Supreme Court,” said an agitated Justice Mishra.

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