Nearly after two years, Supreme Court has closed the suo moto case initiated to probe if there was a larger conspiracy behind the sexual harassment allegations framed against former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. A suo moto case was registered in 2019 to investigate the alleged conspiracy to defame the judiciary.
Three judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, also comprising AS Bopanna, and V Ramasubramanian announced the verdict and stated that the possibility of retrieving electronic records is very less in the probe. The matter was heard after 1 year and nine months.
Referring to the enquiry report submitted by Justice AK Patnaik, the bench observed, “the veracity of the allegations leveled by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains could not be verified completely due to the limited access of records and other collaborative material.”
The report submitted by Justice Patnaik opined that a conspiracy behind the sexual harassment allegations cannot be ruled out. The report also mentioned that certain tough decisions taken by Ex-CJI Gogoi during his tenure can also be the reason behind these allegations.
The bench closed the suo moto case observing there is no requirement to keep the case going on. The order was announced by a completely new panel.
Former CJI Gogoi is now a member of the Rajya Sabha. His nomination was highly criticized over the allegations and was also seen as quid pro quo by the Narendra Modi government for several pro-government rulings during Gogoi’s time as a judge.
In the previous hearing on April 15, 2019, Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, and Justice Deepak Gupta had decided to investigate the sexual harassment allegations against CJI and conspiracy to defame him and the judiciary.
On April 25, 2019, it was ordered that chiefs of CBI, Delhi Police, and Intelligence Bureau are going to assist in the investigation and Justice Patnaik will lead the probe.
The probe was initiated on the grounds of an affidavit filed by advocate Utsav Bains which alleged that these sexual harassment allegations were a larger part of a conspiracy by fixers and plotters to defame CJI. He had also alleged that he was offered Rs 1.5 crores by those fixers to frame sexual harassment charges against then CJI Gogoi.
The bench told that Justice Patnaik had submitted the report in October 2019.
Former SCBA president Dushyant Dave also commented on the decision and said, “the court was operating in strange ways and the way in which the new bench disposed of the matter is to say the least very unusual and contrary to its own Rules and Practices which demand that the matter should have been listed before a Bench of which Hon’ble Justice R.F. Nariman was a member.”
“The entire conspiracy case was an attempt by the Supreme Court to shield former CJI Gogoi. I feel deeply disappointed by this whole episode which has tarnished the image of this great institution. The SC ought no longer protect this gentleman who now insults the entire judiciary by calling it “ramshackled” [as Gogoi did in a recent interview]. Let us hope and pray the court takes right steps in the interests of public and no longer shields the culprits,” Dave continues.
The internal panel constituted by the apex court gave a clean chit to then CJI Gogoi in May 2019. A three-member committee comprising Justice S A Bobde, Justice Indu Malhotra, and Justice Indira Banerjee noted, “The In-House Committee has found no substance in the allegations contained in the Complaint dated 19.4.2019 of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India.”
The notice issued by Secretary General of Supreme Court further added, “In case of Indira Jaising vs Supreme Court of India & Anr. (2003) 5 SCC 494, it has been held that the Report of a Committee constituted as a part of the In-House Procedure is not liable to be made public.”
The internal panel continued to investigate the matter even after the complainant submitted that the environment is really hostile in which she was not allowed to have her lawyer and withdrew from the probe after some time.
The final report was provided to former CJI Gogoi but was not made public. The copy was not even given to the complainant.
The complainant was reinstated to her service in 2020. She had been fired after she came out in public about the sexual harassment allegations against then CJI Ranjan Gogoi. It was also reported that her multiple relatives were punished and she was also sent to prison for allegedly taking bribe to defame Gogoi.