RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- CONSPIRACY AGAINST JUDICIARY
The Supreme Court called the Directors of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Delhi Police Commissioner to look into the material furnished by lawyer Utsav Bains in support of his allegations in the framing of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a false sexual harassment case. A bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Deepak Gupta met all the three officers in their chambers. The Apex Court asked Bains to file an additional affidavit to substantiate his allegation that three disgruntled employees of the Supreme Court conspired along with corporate lobbyists to frame sexual harassment allegations against the CJI. After the hearing, Justice Mishra dictated the order, asking for another affidavit by Bains regarding his allegations against the sacked employees. The Court also said that it will decide the issue if privilege can be claimed over the communications between Bains and the alleged conspirators. The bench also clarified that this will not affect the pending inquiry by the in-house panel
Amongst all the three organs of the Government, i.e. the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature, even after whatever has happened, the Judiciary commands more respect as compared to the other two organs. Further, it is the faith of the common man in the judiciary, which makes him have faith in the democratic process.
If such kind of allegations have been made against the senior officers without proper investigation, the issue should not be highlighted in the press. This is because, in the absence of a material which is proved on the basis of record, it definitely puts a dent on the image of the Judiciary. To maintain the image of the Judiciary, certain things must be kept under guard and it must come in the public domain only if there is a definite evidence available on record.
Institutional integrity needs to be maintained, and for maintaining institutional integrity, if certain new procedures need to be established, without compromising on the basic principles of natural justice, that should be encouraged. We have to evolve these principles so that institutions can enjoy the reputation which they are supposed to enjoy.
Is there a conspiracy against the CJI?
Justice Ranjan Gogoi is the third CJI, against whom certain allegations have been levied. Before him, Justice JS Khehar, and Justice Dipak Mishra had witnessed circumstances where allegations were hurled against them. Thus, there are two parts to it:
- One, the nature of allegations made by a dismissed Supreme Court employee against Justice Ranjan Gogoi. This is being dealt with by a committee headed by Justice S.A. Bobde.
- Second is the larger conspiracy that has been alleged by advocate Utsav Bains, in his affidavit filed before the Supreme Court. Bains appeared before the court and he told the court that he has some additional material, which he would be filing in the form of an affidavit.
- The Court is going to ascertain whether or not there was actually an attempt or conspiracy to force the Chief Justice of India to resign and whether there was an attempt to bribe Bains (who has claimed to have been offered to receive 1.5 Crores) and whether there was some conspiracy between some lawyers, some disgruntled, dismissed employees, and some corporates to frame the CJI in a sexual harassment case.
Further, Attorney General and Solicitor General have attempted to suggest to the Court that there should be an SIT probe. The Court has denied an SIT probe at this stage.
Procedure while dealing with complaints of criminal misconduct concerning the higher judiciary or the CJI or a top judge:
- There is an in-house mechanism already in existence, which is that whenever a complaint is received against a judge, it should be investigated by a committee and a report is to be submitted to the Chief Justice of India. After this the Chief Justice of India takes a call in consultation with the other judges as well as to what further action has to be taken. Currently, the Constitution of India provides only for impeachment. No other punishment is prescribed.
- But as far as the Chief Justice of India himself is concerned, there is no separate mechanism prescribed. Therefore, in this particular case, the decision taken and investigated by the three judges of the Supreme Court is a well thought of decision.
- An independent enquiry towards complaints of Sexual harassment is needed to uphold the credibility of the SC.
- The Gender Sensitization and ICC should inquire into the affidavit of the complainant to ensure justice is done.
- The focus now shifts to the judges, excluding the CJI, who were all sent a copy of the affidavit and the complaint.
- Their response, as members of the Supreme Court, is bound to define the path which will guide the institution in dealing with the crisis.
- The apex court could also respond to the institutional crisis through a full court being convened on the administrative side.
- In the issue of allocation of cases
- A just and fair roster must be one that is divided subject-wise among judges according to their experience and expertise in those subjects must be decided.
- Politically sensitive matters should be before the five senior judges of the Supreme Court. Among them, the allocation of individual cases must be by random computer allocation not by the individual decision of any human.
- For other cases as well, if there is more than one judge dealing with a particular subject then cases belonging to that subject should be randomly allocated among the various judges to whom that subject has been allocated.
- The independence of the judiciary is not under threat. The judiciary itself exercises restraint when it comes to exercising its power with regard to these type of allegations.
- Need to work on the topic like if the case the allegations are proven to be true, then what other process can be adopted other than impeachment.
- Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, which was introduced in the Parliament a number of times, but could not be passed, should be considered so that people also get the confidence that the judicial officers are also accountable in case they are proven of misconduct, and there are procedures laid down for the same.
- Thus, if procedures that are regulated by law are enforced then both the print media as well as the new media can possibly exercise greater restraint. They would also think twice before publishing reports and check for the authenticity of such reports.
- It is hard for the judiciary and judges to insulate themselves from threats and false accusations. So the need is of enforcement of some kind of a procedure to deal with such issues and situations. The credibility of the institution would get enhanced if there is a credible mechanism to deal with such situations.
- Issues should not be politicized and should be viewed on the merits of the case.
The politicisation of this case in all its dimensions is not a good portent for the judiciary. There is a need for the SC judges and the authority they command to create a credible internal culture which ensures the independence of the judiciary.
Update- The Committee has given a clean chit to CJI Gogoi and concluded that there is no substance in the allegations of the complainant.
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