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Sexual Harassment Allegations Against CJI: Justice Patnaik Will Not Start Inquiry In To Larger Conspiracy Until The In-house Inquiry Is Over

27 April 2019 6:37 AM GMT
Sexual Harassment Allegations Against CJI: Justice Patnaik Will Not Start Inquiry In To Larger Conspiracy Until The In-house Inquiry Is Over
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Amidst apprehensions that a parallel inquiry into the claims of a larger plot to frame the Chief Justice of India would prejudice that by the in-house committee headed by Justice S. A. Bobde into the sexual harassment allegations against the CJ of a former Supreme Court employee, retired Justice A. K. Patnaik has reportedly decided to stall the former until the completion of the other.

On Thursday, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had entrusted retired apex court judge, Justice Patnaik (assisted by the chiefs of the CBI, the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau), with the task of verifying the genuineness of lawyer Utsav Bains's claims of a conspiracy by fixers and disgruntled employees against CJ Ranjan Gogoi.
"I am not going to start until the in-house inquiry is over. If you see the Supreme Court order [of April 25], I have not been given a time limit, like 15 or 20 days, to complete my assignment… I think to avoid any clash with the Justice Bobde Committee inquiry, I will wait for them to finish… Let that be over," The Hindu quotes Justice Patnaik as saying.
This judgment call in prioritising the in-house inquiry seems to be of the former judge's own taking considering that there are no indications to this effect in the top court's order. Justice Mishra's bench has in fact repeatedly assured that "the affidavits filed in Court and the order passed should not affect the inquiry to be conducted on administrative side in any manner whatsoever", emphasising that "we make it clear that this inquiry shall not be with respect to the alleged misbehaviour involving Hon'ble The Chief Justice of India...We again reiterate that the outcome of the inquiry shall not affect the in-house procedure/inquiry which is pending in the administrative side in any manner whatsoever"
The clarification came on Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing in person as a "stakeholder" in the independence of the judiciary, having urged that "The two inquiries must not prejudice each other" and that "If it is said that she (the ex-employee) is being manipulated by corporate houses, it would preempt that inquiry", suggesting that in the alternative the two inquiries be conducted together and simultaneously.
The three-member panel, helmed by Justice Bobde, conducted its first in-chamber sitting during which the woman employee and the secretary general of the apex court appeared before it, an official source said. During the hearing, only the woman was present and the secretary-general was not privy to the proceedings, the source said.

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