SC sets up high-powered inquiry into “conspiracy against CJI Gogoi”

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The Supreme Court has appointed former judge Justice A K Patnaik to conduct a detailed inquiry into the allegation that external forces hatched a conspiracy to remove Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi from benches seized of high-profile cases.

Justice Patnaik will have the full use of three investigating agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation, Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau, to conduct his investigations.

Details of the exact brief for Justice Patnaik are yet to come in, but it is likely that his probe will primarily be based on the affidavit submitted by Advocate Utsav Bains in which he made various allegations about corruption in the Supreme Court circle.

In his affidavit, advocate Bains also said he was offered Rs 1.5 cr by high-level conspirators to conduct a press conference and lead a charge against sitting chief justice, Ranjan Gogoi.

Bains also said that his own inquiries revealed that the conspiracy was hatched at the behest of a powerful corporate figure, who wanted Gogoi removed from a case in which he stood to lose hundreds of crores of rupees.

Bains, however, did not disclose the name of the corporate baron, but offered to give further details in a sealed cover. Expressing concern for his own life, Bains refused to disclose the names of the people who had supplied him with information about the alleged fixers and the conspiracy.

Hearing the matter, a three judge bench had yesterday expressed its frustration at the allegations and said the ‘rich and powerful’ were playing with fire in their attempts to influence the Supreme Court’s judgments and judges.

The judges hinted that the current controversy may also be related to Justice Gogoi’s attempts to clean up a corrupt system that manages favorable judgments by trying to bribe judges of the Supreme Court.

“This is a very serious allegation [by advocate Bains] that the system of bench fixing was adopted and when they failed, some fixer roaming around has tried to do this,” said the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta on Wednesday.

“Don’t think that Supreme Court can be remote controlled by anything on earth, whether money power or political power.. The day has come that we rise and tell rich and powerful persons of this country that they can’t do it. You are playing with fire,” the bench warned, adding, “Everyday, everybody is trying to influence us.”

The judges also said that outsiders don’t seem to have much of an idea about what was going on.

“You don’t understand what we are up to. You don’t know what is there in the sealed cover,” they told a prominent women’s rights advocate who was present at the hearing yesterday.

“We have come to this extent of blackmailing. You don’t know what is going on!”

The current controversy started when a former Supreme Court staff member circulated an affidavit alleging that chief justice Ranjan Gogoi tried to obtain sexual favors from her for getting one of her relatives’ a job in the court.

Gogoi, who has ruffled many feathers in his tenure as chief justice, denied the allegations and said it was an attempt to stop him from hearing several crucial cases.

As the chief justice, Js Gogoi hears several crucial cases, including those of big corporate groups, as well as contentious topics like the Babri Masjid land dispute case.

Gogoi earned the ire of many supporters of Ram Temple agitation for going back on the ‘daily hearings’ promised by his predecessor Dipak Misra in the case.

He has also refused to entertain the government of India’s argument in the Rafale aircraft procurement case against the admission of documents illegally procured by The Hindu newspaper as evidence.

Gogoi also sacked two Supreme Court employees for tampering with an order in the Ericsson vs Anil Ambani case.