The latest scandal to hit the Supreme Court is getting murkier by the day. Aside from a vague charge of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice, Ranjan Gogoi, a deeper conspiracy to compromise the integrity of the court has been alleged by a practicing lawyer. Several lawyers themselves are guilty of dragging down the public image of the judiciary by hurling abuses without concrete evidence.
It is ironical that the target of the latest accusations is none other than the CJI who in January last year was one of the four judges who had addressed a press conference against the working of the then Chief Justice, Dipak Mishra. CJI Dipak Mishra was accused of bypassing seniority in constituting benches in politically sensitive cases. The latest complaints against CJI Gogoi allege sexual harassment of a junior assistant who has since been sacked on disciplinary grounds.
No less significant was the charge by a lawyer that a larger conspiracy was afoot to frame the CJI in a false case in order to force him out. On Saturday, following coordinated publication of the woman complainant’s petition by four anti-government news portals, a three-member bench presided by the CJI took note of the charges. Justice Gogoi expressed anger and anguish at being dragged into a false case.
After he withdrew from the proceedings mid-way, the two judges rubbished the charge while promising a thorough probe. However, on the receipt of the written complaint about a larger conspiracy behind the charges, a three-judge bench chaired by Justice Arun Mishra heard the lawyer Utsav Bains who reiterated the charge. He claimed that he was offered Rs 1.5 crores to convene a press conference to make the scurrilous charges against the CJI.
He suspected the hand of a corporate house as also a few fixer-lawyers in the Supreme Court who manage favourable orders through bench-fixing. This was a grave charge. It brings into disrepute the integrity of the higher judiciary, pulling it down further in the eyes of not only the millions of litigants but the lay public as well. Taking a serious note, the court ordered the heads of the CBI, IB and the Delhi Police to investigate the above charge.
On Thursday, the court appointed a former Supreme Court judge A K Patnaik to prove the alleged larger conspiracy to force CJI Gogoi out of office. A day earlier the same bench had expressed concern at the alleged role of the fixers, with Justice Mishra fearing that ‘if they continue to work then none of us will survive… fixing has no role in the system.’
In a stern warning, Justice Mishra addressing himself to fixers and others sabotaging the independence of the judiciary not to play with fire. “Don’t think that Supreme Court can be remote controlled by anything on earth, whether money power or political power… We want to send a message to people of the country, the rich and powerful, that they cannot control or run this court”, the presiding judge said.
Earlier, Justice N V Ramana recused himself from the three-member bench after the woman petitioner alleged his proximity to the CJI. She also complained that the court had not followed the guidelines in the Vishaka case which stipulated that there should be a majority of women in the inquiry committee. The woman in question was dismissed following an internal inquiry.
Meanwhile, a criminal case of fraud and extortion is being investigated against the woman for accepting Rs. 50,000 as bribe for promising a job to a man in her village. There is ample evidence that the woman is being actively advised by a woman-lawyer who was a beneficiary of the UPA government. The dissident lawyers would like nothing better than if the court were to hand down orders in politically sensitive case which reflected poorly on the current regime.