The Supreme Court on Thursday constituted a one-man panel of former apex court judge Justice A K Patnaik to hold an inquiry into the allegations of a larger conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and fixing of benches in the top court.
The apex court asked the directors of CBI and IB as also the Delhi Police Commissioner to cooperate with Justice (Retd) Patnaik as and when sought by him during the inquiry.
It said however that the inquiry by will not deal with the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, levelled by an ex-employee of the top court. It said the outcome of the inquiry will not affect the in-house committee which is dealing with the complaint against the CJI.
The apex court said that on the completion of the inquiry, Justice (Retd) Patnaik will file a report in a sealed cover before the court after which the matter will be heard again. It left it to the panel to take the assistance of the people required for the inquiry.
In the order, a special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said: "Considering the factual gamut and the affidavits filed by advocate Utsav Singh Bains, we are appointing Justice A K Patnaik, retired judge of this court, to hold an inquiry into the allegations levelled in the affidavit filed by Bains."
The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta, clarified that he "would not deal with the allegations of misbehaviour by the CJI". It also said that the "outcome of the inquiry and its findings" would not affect the in-house inquiry which has been ordered.
The bench further said: "Directors of CBI and IB and Delhi Police Commissioner would render cooperation to Justice (Retd) Patnaik as and when required during his inquiry."
The bench ordered that the affidavit filed by Bains be transferred to Justice (Retd) Patnaik in a sealed cover. While dictating the order, the bench at the outset said, "We have decided that no privilege can be claimed on certain communications the advocate is claiming and he has to disclose the information as and when required."
The Supreme Court earlier on Thursday expressed anguish over the "systematic attack" on the judiciary and said the time has come to tell the rich and powerful of this country that they are "playing with fire".
The apex court made this observation while hearing claims made by Bains that there was a larger conspiracy to frame the CJI on allegations of sexual harassment. The bench said, "The way this institution is treated in last few years we must say that we will not survive if this will happen. "There is a systematic attack, systematic game to malign this institution."
In an apparent reference to controversies that plagued the top judiciary last year, Justice Mishra also observed that truth has not come out yet. "People should know the truth. This is going on and this has to stop," the bench said. "Do the rich and powerful of this country think that they can remote control the Supreme Court," it said.
In an unprecedented presser on January 12 last year, four senior judges of the apex court -- Justices J Chelameswar, Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- had raised a litany of problems, including assigning of cases in the top court by the then CJI Dipak Misra, and said there were certain issues afflicting the country's highest court.
The apex court also said Thursday that so many things are going around in the judiciary and when somebody tries to fix it, the person is maligned. "We have come to this extent of blackmailing. You don't know what is going on," the bench said without elaborating.
The bench said that 4-5 percent of the lawyers, including senior advocates, are bringing a bad name to this institution and "we are worried as judges why we have come to this? We are very concerned."
"The day has come that we rise and tell rich and powerful persons of this country that they can't do it. You are playing with fire," the bench said, adding, "every day, everybody is trying to influence us."
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that instead of an inquiry, an SIT probe should be ordered into allegations levelled by Bains. At the outset, Bains filed an additional affidavit in a sealed cover in the court in support of his claims.
The bench then asked Attorney General K K Venugopal about the issue of the privilege claimed by Bains over certain communications being protected under provisions of the advocate's act.
Venugopal, while referring to provisions of law, said there was no lawyer-client relationship in this case as Bains has filed an affidavit in his personal capacity and thus he cannot claim privilege over certain communications.
Senior advocate and President of Supreme Court Bar Association Rakesh Khanna also told the bench that the court has the power to summon any document related to the case and Bains cannot claim privilege over certain communications.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who is appearing in person in the matter, told the bench that they should clarify there is no connection between the hearing of affidavit of Bains and the separate inquiry committee proceedings on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI.Bains had filed an affidavit following the unprecedented hearing on Saturday during which Justice Gogoi had said some "bigger force" was behind the sexual harassment allegations as they wanted to "deactivate" the CJI's office.