The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order on the issue of setting up an inquiry committee to probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.
A special bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta will pronounce its order later in the day.
During the course of the hearing, advocate Utsav Bains, who made the claim about a conspiracy to frame Justice Gogoi, submitted an additional affidavit on the direction of the court.
In his affidavit, Bains submitted that he cannot share the names of the “fixers” as “privileged communication under the Advocates Act” cannot be disclosed.
Attorney General KK Venugopal said the claim of privilege under Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act is not applicable to any communication between Bains and the alleged fixers.
Venugopal said that a court can ask for any document relevant to a case.
Supporting the Attorney General’s argument, Supreme Court Bar Association 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, Khanna said.”Whatever he (Bains) divulged to us, in any case, our power to inspect the documents is there,” Justice Nariman 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.
“We are in anguish the way this institution is being treated for the last 3-4 years is as if this institution will die. This is the court made by the likes of Fali Nariman, Nani Palkhiwala, K Parasaran. This is your institution and not ours. We, judges, come and go,” he said.
“This country must know the truth. The Supreme Court cannot be run by money power or political power. The powerful think they can run this country? When somebody tries to clean up the system, he is killed or maligned. This will stop,” Justice Mishra observed.
“Every day we hear about bench-fixing, every day we hear of wrong practices in this court. This has to go. The day has come when we have to rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot run the Supreme Court,” he said.
“Don’t provoke us anymore. We want to tell the rich and the powerful that they are playing with fire. This is not the way a country can run,” Justice Mishra said.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising told the court that the inquiry headed by Justice S A Bobde into the sexual harassment charge and the case before the court should be conducted together.
“We again clarify that the outcome of this inquiry (into the conspiracy charge) will not affect that inquiry (into the sexual harassment charge),” Justice Mishra said.
On Tuesday, a three-member committee of the apex court led by Justice Bobde, the senior-most judge after the Chief Justice, was formed to look into the allegation of sexual harassment made by a dismissed employee against Justice Gogoi.
The other two members of the committee are Justices NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. Justice Ramana is the third in the seniority list in the apex court and will the Chief Justice after the retirement of Justice Bobde.