No Clean Chit to CJI Gogoi’s Accuser in Justice Patnaik Report
A highly placed source told The Quint the report does not give a clean chit to anybody, including the woman.
Retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik – who was appointed to investigate allegations of a conspiracy against the judiciary and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi – submitted a report on his findings to the Supreme Court in the second week of September.
However, contrary to media reports, a highly placed source has informed The Quint that this report does not give a clean chit to anybody, including the woman who had accused CJI Gogoi of sexual harassment in April this year.
“The report is not conclusive as it requires further investigation, because certain material can only be accessed by the investigating agencies,” the source said. They clarified that “No clean chit was given to anybody. Media is selectively reporting.”
The Quint can confirm that the report was submitted to the apex court over a month ago. The special bench of the court headed by Justice Arun Mishra that is looking into the allegations of conspiracy, is expected to conduct a hearing on it soon.
On Saturday, 19 October, the newspaper Hindustan reported that Justice (retd) AK Patnaik’s investigation into allegations of conspiracy against the judiciary has given a “clean chit” to the woman who had accused the CJI of sexual harassment.
Hindustan’s article says that Justice Patnaik’s investigation found that the woman complainant was not part of any conspiracy of ‘bench-fixing’, and nor was she party to any plan to tarnish the reputation of the Supreme Court. It also said that the investigation has not found evidence of any broader conspiracy.
However, the source who spoke to The Quint termed this a “selective leak”, saying:
“There are many conclusions given in the report which will be examined by the court. The report is on the allegations made by Utsav Bains in his affidavit which was enquired. It was a scientific investigation based on call records, CCTV footage and documents. Whatever allegation was found to be correct is mentioned and whatever allegation was found to be incorrect is also mentioned in the report.”
How Did Justice Patnaik Get Involved in This Matter?
On 25 April, a bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Arun Mishra appointed retired apex court judge AK Patnaik to probe allegations of conspiracy made by advocate Utsav Bains, who claimed there was a plot to frame CJI Gogoi and fix benches of the court to favour certain parties.
Bains claimed that the conspiracy had been hatched by a “corporate figure who tried to approach an Hon’ble Supreme Court judge to get a favourable order in a high-profile case listed before this Hon’ble Court but was unsuccessful.”
The unnamed corporate figure was supposed to have roped in an alleged fixer by the name of Romesh Sharma, who then “ganged up with disgruntled employees and former employees of the Supreme Court” to carry out the conspiracy.
You can read more about Bains’ allegations about the conspiracy here.
The CJI had been accused of sexual harassment by a Supreme Court staff member in news reports on 20 April. The former junior court assistant submitted an affidavit to 22 judges of the Supreme Court on Friday morning, outlining how Gogoi sexually harassed her, and how she was further victimised and dismissed from her post.
In her affidavit, she had alleged that the CJI had made sexual advances on her at his residence on 10 and 11 October 2018. You can read more about the allegations here.
On the same day, the CJI constituted a special bench to conduct an urgent hearing where he said the allegations against himself were part of a larger conspiracy threatening the independence of the judiciary.
Bains came out with a Facebook post supporting these claims on the same day, and even filed an affidavit in the court on 22 April. He submitted further affidavits in a sealed cover to the bench headed by Justice Mishra which had been set up to look into this ‘threat to the independence of the judiciary’.
Justice Patnaik told The Quint soon after he was appointed in to probe the conspiracy that his investigation would not cover the merits of the woman’s complaint against the CJI. The complaint itself was investigated by an in-house committee of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra which found “no substance in the allegations”.
Justice Patnaik’s investigation, in which he was assisted by the Delhi Police, Intelligence Bureau and the CBI, was reported to have been completed on 20 August. While Bains was examined as part of the investigation, the woman complainant was not questioned.
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