Can't Rule Out Conspiracy Against Ex-CJI Gogoi, But Can't Verify: SC

Despite the possibility of a conspiracy, the matter was closed since the recovery of evidence was unlikely after two years.

The Supreme Court on Thursday disposed off the 2019 suo motu case it had registered to examine an alleged threat to the independence of the judiciary in the wake of allegation of sexual harassment levelled against then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi even though there was a possibility of conspiracy in this issue.

"There are strong reasons to believe that some kind of conspiracy might have been undertaken against CJI," Justice Kaul said quoting from a report submitted by former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Patnaik who was tasked with probing the alleged conspiracy to threaten the independence of the judiciary.

"The veracity of the allegations levelled by lawyer Utsav Singh Bains could not be verified completely due to the limited access of records and other collaborative material," the report submitted in October 2019 added.

"Two years have passed and the possibility of recovery of electronic evidence now is unlikely. The three-member committee headed by CJI SA Bobde (he was the senior-most judge after CJI Gogoi at the time) has already submitted a report. Suo Motu case is closed and proceedings are disposed off. There is no requirement to keep the case going on," Justice Kaul said.

The matter was listed before a bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul—the matter was placed before him after Justice Arun Mishra, who was previously looking into it, retired—after a gap of one year and nine months. The case was last heard in April 2019.

During the hearing, the apex court also referred to a letter by the Director of Intelligence Bureau that the conspiracy may have been hatched due to certain judgments—like the NRC matter—given by CJI Gogoi.

In 2013, CJI Gogoi had directed the Centre and the State of Assam to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on two pleas filed by NGOs Assam Public Works and Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha seeking to remove the names of illegal migrants from the state's 2006 electoral rolls. More than 19 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants in Assam were left out from the final list that was published on August 31, 2019, concluding the apex-court monitored exercise that took five years and cost Rs. 1,220 crores.

In April 2019, a Supreme Court staffer had levelled allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Gogoi. She had filed a representation before all the judges of the Supreme Court and had sought an inquiry in the matter. Hours after the letter was made public on April 20—a Saturday—CJI Gogoi had called an emergency hearing on Saturday and claimed a threat to the independence of the judiciary. CJI Gogoi had presided over the matter and denied the allegations made against him.

The matter was then referred to a three-judge bench led by Justice Mishra after advocate Utsav Singh Bains submitted an affidavit with certain documents alleging conspiracy. Justice Mishra had then appointed Justice Patnaik to probe the conspiracy angle.

"It's a vindication of my stand that there was a conspiracy against former CJI Gogoi. I welcome the honourable Supreme Court observation vindicating my stand that there was a conspiracy against former CJI Gogoi." Advocate Utsav Bains told BOOM.

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