Complaint against CJI Ranjan Gogoi: Let S.A. Bobde panel finish probe first, says ex-judge A.K. Patnaik

A.K. Patnaik  

Justice A.K. Patnaik, the retired Supreme Court judge appointed by the court to check a lawyer’s claim of a “larger conspiracy” against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said on Friday that he would not begin his assignment until the in-house inquiry into a former court staffer’s complaint of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice was completed.

The former judge said a scrutiny of the conspiracy claim could wait as he was not on a deadline.

“I am not going to start until the in-house inquiry is over. If you see the Supreme Court order [of April 25], I have not been given a time limit, like 15 or 20 days, to complete my assignment… I think to avoid any clash with the Justice Bobde Committee inquiry, I will wait for them to finish… Let that be over,” Justice Patnaik told The Hindu on the phone.

Own decision

The decision to wait seems to be Justice Patnaik’s own as there is no specific direction from the court. On the other hand, the Special Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, which appointed Justice Patnaik on April 25, said a probe into the “larger plot” would not queer the inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint.

Despite the Bench’s assurances, Justice Patnaik pushed the pause button so the complainant would have no reason to fear prejudice.

The priority, Justice Patnaik said, is now the in-house inquiry into her complaint. The Justice Bobde panel, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, heard the complainant on April 26.

Justice Patnaik’s words address apprehensions in legal and public quarters that a “parallel” probe may jeopardise whatever defence the woman may put up before the Justice Bobde Committee.

The retired judge has been tasked by the Special Bench to examine the claims made by a young lawyer, Utsav Singh Bains, that a powerful lobby of fixers, disgruntled apex court employees and corporate figures are targeting the CJI and the highest judiciary. Mr. Bains has even claimed in his affidavit that a man claiming to be the complainant-woman’s relative offered him up to ₹1.5 crore to file a false case against the CJI.

Asked how he would proceed once he gets started, Justice Patnaik said, “His (Bains’) affidavits are already there. I have the help of the CBI and other authorities. I will independently apply my mind. If there is nothing in it, I will file a report to that effect in the Supreme Court. If there is something, then I will file a report accordingly. Whatever effectively comes out of going through the records, I will do accordingly.”

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 11:36:43 AM |

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