‘Rich and powerful can’t run this court’, says Supreme Court on conspiracy against CJI

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court that is hearing claims about a larger conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday delivered a sharp warning to people who were attempting to use money or political power to manipulate the judicial system.

‘Don’t play with fire… We want to send a message to people of the country, the rich and powerful that they cannot control or run this court,” Justice Arun Mishra said. The observation was directed at people, who a lawyer claimed, were also involved in influencing the decision to refer a case to a particular judge, or as the court put it, “bench fixing”.

The Supreme Court had set up the three-judge bench led by Justice Mishra last week to take up an affidavit filed by a lawyer Utsav Bains who had alleged a conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.

As the lawyer detailed his allegations in a secret affidavit, the Supreme Court judges said there was “a systematic attack or game to run the court”.

“We are anguished at the way this institution has been treated for the last 3, 4 years… This institution will die,” the court said at Thursday’s hearing.

At yesterday’s hearing, the court had underlined its resolve to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. “We will enquire, enquire and enquire till we get to the root of the issue,” the bench had said. Hours earlier, it had “requested” chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police to take over all material on the charge about a conspiracy against the Chief Justice.

Lawyer Utsav Bains’ affidavit filed before the bench that also comprises justices Rohintan Fali Nariman and Deepak Gupta had also referred to some sacked staffers of the top court who had ganged up to implicate the Chief Justice of India in a false charge.

Two of them had been sacked by Chief Justice Gogoi for changing a court order in a recent case and a police case filed against them. The judges have said this wasn’t the first time where court staffers were found to have crossed the line. But this was the first where strong action was taken against them.

“All sorts of things happen here… The powerful of the country feel that they can run the place,” bench said on Thursday.

“If anyone tries to do something about it, accusations are made worse than those made at present,” Justice Mishra said.

The observation is seen in context of the sexual harassment case filed by a former court staffer against Chief Justice Gogoi. The country’s top judge had last week held a special hearing where he had described it as an attempt to deactivate the office of the CJI.

Justice Mishra has clarified that the harassment allegation against the Chief Justice and the claims of a conspiracy against the Chief Justice were two distinct and independent proceedings.

A three-judge committee led by Justice SA Bobde has been set up to look into the sexual harassment accusation. This panel will meet on Friday.