The Supreme Court is asking, are the sexual harassment allegations against the Chief Justice of India fabricated?
A 3 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court is looking into the claims made by Advocate Utsav Bains. He claims that the allegations made by a former Junior Officer of the Court alleging sexual harassment by the Chief Justice of India are fabricated and motivated by a larger conspiracy to undermine the independence of the judiciary by corporate persons and corrupt political leaders.
On 19th April 2019, a former junior Court Officer alleged that she was sexually harassed by the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. She submitted documents substianting her claims and wrote a letter to 22 Supreme Court Justices.
On 20th April, the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi called a special hearing. He denied the allegations. Justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna sat with him on the Bench. No judicial orders were passed and the Chief Justice stepped aside.
On 23rd April, a Bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta began hearing the matter. They issued notice to the lawyer Utsav Bains to appear in-person. On 24th April, Mr. Bains appeared in-person before the Court and submitted an affidavit in a sealed cover.
On 25th April, the Bench directed retired Justice AK Patnaik to conduct an inquiry into the alleged conspiracy. He will be assisted by the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Chief of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Delhi Police Commissioner. Justice AK Patnaik will submit a report in a sealed cover to the Bench, documenting his findings.
Simultaneous to these hearings, the Supreme Court has formed an in-house panel to conduct an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Note that the AK Patnaik inquiry is specifically focusing on the conspiracy allegations, while the in-house panel has limited its inquiry to the sexual harassment allegations. The in-house panel comprised Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana and Indira Banerjee. On 25th April, Justice NV Ramana recused himself from the panel, after the complainant expressed her objections to him being included on the panel. She cited Justice Ramana's close friendship with the Chief Justice. Justice Ramana was replaced by Justice Indu Malhotra.
On 30th April, the complainant withdrew from the in-house inquiry. She cited various reasons, including:
1) Can this hearing prejudice the panel conducting the in-house inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations?
2) Do the sexual harassment allegations infringe upon the independence of the judiciary?