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‘Rich and Powerful Are Playing With Fire’: SC on Lawyer's Claim of Conspiracy Against CJI

A special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it was anguished with the way the judiciary has been treated for the past 3-4 years.
Supreme Court

Image Courtesy: Business Standard

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed anguish over the "systematic attack" on the judiciary and said time has come to tell the rich and powerful of this country that they are "playing with fire".

The apex court was hearing claims made by an advocate that there was a larger conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on allegations of sexual harassment.

The court said it will pass an order at 2 pm.

A special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it is anguished with the way the judiciary has been treated for the past 3-4 years.

"The way this institution is treated in last few years we must say that we will not survive if this will happen," a bench also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta said.

"There is a systematic attack, systematic game to malign this institution", the bench said.

The bench observed that so many things are "going on in the air" and it requires definite probe.

"Don't think that Supreme Court can be remote controlled by anything on earth, whether money power or political power," the bench said.

In an apparent reference to controversies that plagued the top judiciary last year, Justice Mishra also observed that truth has not come out yet.

 "People should know the truth. This is going on and this has to stop," the bench said and observed, "Do the rich and powerful of this country think that they can remote control the Supreme Court."

It is pertinent to mention here that in an unprecedented presser on January 12 last year, four senior judges of the apex court -- CJI Ranjan Gogoi, then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- had raised a litany of problems, including assigning of cases in the top court, and said there were certain issues afflicting the country's highest court

 The apex court also said Thursday that so many things are going around in the judiciary and when somebody tries to fix it, the person is maligned.

"We have come to this extent of blackmailing. You don't know what is going on," the bench said without elaborating.

The court said eminent jurists like Nani Palkhivala,  Fali S Nariman and K Parasaran have made this great institution and now everyday news of bench fixing come to the fore.

 The bench said that four-five percent are bringing bad name to this institution and "we are worried as judges why we have come to this? We are very concerned."

"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 said, adding, "Everyday, everybody is trying to influence us."

The bench made it clear that it would see whether the claims of advocate Utsav Singh Bains, who has alleged a larger conspiracy to frame the CJI on allegations of sexual harassment and attempts oof fixing benches in the top court, are true or not.

 The stinging observations by the bench came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that instead of an inquiry, an SIT probe should be ordered into  allegations levelled by Bains.

At the outset, Bains filed an additional affidavit in a sealed cover in the court in support of his claims.

The bench then asked Attorney General K K Venugopal about the issue of privilege claimed by Bains over certain communications being protected under provisions of the advocate's act.

Venugopal, while referring to provisions of law, said there was no lawyer-client relationship in this case as Bains has filed affidavit in his personal capacity and thus he cannot claim privilege over certain communications.

Senior advocate and President of Supreme Court Bar Association Rakesh Khanna also told the bench that the court has the power to summon any document related to the case and Bains cannot claim privilege over certain communications.

 "In any case our power to inspect documents is always there," Justice Nariman said.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who is appearing in person in the matter, told the bench that they should clarify there is no connection between the hearing of affidavit of Bains and the separate inquiry committee proceedings on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI.

"This is a very serious allegation that the system of bench fixing was adopted and when they failed, some fixer roaming around has tried to do this," the bench said.

 "You don't understand what we are up to. You don't know what is there in the sealed cover," Justice Mishra told Jaising.

Jaising, however, told the court that there must be an investigation into credentials of Bains so that it could be clear that he has come to court with clean hands.

Bains had filed an affidavit following the unprecedented hearing on Saturday during which Justice Gogoi had said some "bigger force" was behind the sexual harassment allegations as they wanted to "deactivate" the CJI's office.

The hearing on April 20 in the case, titled as a matter of "great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary", was held after stories were published on some news portals about sexual harassment allegations levelled by a former employee of the apex court against the CJI.

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