Justice NV Ramana, one of the members of the three-judge panel formed for an in-house probe into the sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, recused himself on Thursday.
The complainant in the case against the CJI had on Wednesday written a letter to the Supreme Court objecting to Justice Ramana’s inclusion in the panel. The complainant had reportedly said that Justice Ramana often frequents CJI Gogoi’s residence and is “like a family member to him”.
The panel will now be reconstituted with a replacement for Justice Ramana.
The panel was formed on Tuesday after a meeting of the full court, attended by all judges except the Chief Justice.
Besides Justice Ramana, the panel constituted of Justice SA Bobde, who was to head the panel, and Justice Indira Banerjee.
Justice Bobde had said, “I picked Justice Ramana because he is next to me in seniority and Justice Banerjee because she is a woman judge.”
In a parallel development, the top court on Thursday also appointed retired judge AK Patnaik to head the inquiry to probe lawyer Utsav Bains’ allegations of a conspiracy in the case against CJI.
The apex court also directed CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla and IB Chief Rajiv Jain to cooperate with Justice AK Patnaik in the probe.
The Supreme Court observed that some rich and powerful people want to control its functioning, as it heard for the third time the matter related to allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
The allegations of “bench fixing are so serious that it requires investigation”, said the judges.
“People with money power are trying to run the registry of the top court…this is a really serious matter…people can be killed or maligned if the truth is brought forth,” the court further observed.
Utsav Bains had on Monday filed an affidavit in which he claimed that he was offered Rs 1.5 crore to represent the former apex court woman employee who levelled the allegation against the CJI.
In the unprecedented hearing on Saturday, the CJI had said a larger conspiracy was behind it and that he would not stoop too low even to deny these allegations.
CJI Gogoi has been accused of sexual assault by a former officer who worked as a junior assistant at the Supreme Court between May 2014 and December 2018.