SC appoints Justice (retd) A K Patnaik to probe advocate’s claims of conspiracy to frame CJI Gogoi
The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed retired apex court judge AK Patnaik to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.
In its order, a special bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta asked the directors of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to assist Justice Patnaik in the inquiry and ensure that the matter comes to a logical conclusion.
Rejecting the plea of advocate Utsav Bains claiming privilege over disclosure of documents allegedly in his possession, the court asked him to submit or place all material and evidence before the inquiry committee.
During the proceedings earlier in the day, Bains had submitted an additional affidavit before the bench claiming that he cannot share the names of the “fixers” as “privileged communication under the Evidence Act” cannot be disclosed.
In his initial affidavit, Bains had claimed that a person approached him to take up the case of a dismissed woman employee of the apex court, who made the allegation against Justice Gogoi.
He had said that when he refused to take up her case on finding several loopholes in the woman’s story, the man offered him Rs 50 lakh which was later raised to Rs 1.5 crore.
Section 126 of the Evidence Act states that no barrister, attorney, pleader or vakil shall at any time be permitted, unless with his client’s express consent, to disclose any communication made to him in the course and for the purpose of his employment as such barrister, pleader, attorney or vakil, by or on behalf of his client,
Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that the claim of privilege under the Evidence Act is not applicable to any communication between Bains and the alleged fixers.
“As per his affidavit, one Ajay came to him and offered Rs 1.5 crore. He doesn’t say any client. He was not Bains’ client, so there can be no application of Section 126,” he said.
Supporting the Attorney General’s argument, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Rakesh Khanna submitted that there is “no sacrosanct right” to withhold any document. The court has the power to seek production of documents over which privilege is claimed, he said.
“Whatever he (Bains) divulged to us, in any case, our power to inspect the documents is there,” Justice Nariman had observed.
“There is systematic attempt/game, so many things have not come out. The truth has not come out. These things are in the air for a long time and people of the country must know the truth. There has been a systemic attack against the Supreme Court,” Justice Mishra said during the hearing.
Following the arguments, the bench had reserved its order.
On Tuesday, a three-member in-house committee of the apex court led by Justice S A Bobde, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, was formed to look into the allegation of sexual harassment made by the dismissed employee against Justice Gogoi.
Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee were named as the other two members of the committee.
In the hearing today, Justice Mishra had said, “We again clarify that the outcome of this inquiry (into the conspiracy charge) will not affect that inquiry (into the sexual harassment charge).”
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