New Delhi: Anguished over "systematic attack" to malign the judiciary, the Supreme Court Thursday said time has come to send a message to the country that the top court was "not vulnerable" and nobody can "remote control" it either by money or political power.
The apex court, during the hearing on a lawyer's affidavit claiming "larger conspiracy" to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on sexual harassment allegations and fixing of benches in the top court, warned that if such attempts were not stopped the institution "will die".
Observing that the apex court cannot be run by money or political power, a three-judge special bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that the day has come for them to rise and tell the country's rich and powerful that they are "playing with fire".
The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta, said people are trying to fix the court registry by money power and when somebody try to improve these things, he is "killed" or "maligned".
"Do not think that the Supreme Court can be remote controlled by anything on the earth, whether money power or political power," the bench said.
"We are anguished with the way this institution is being treated in the last three-four years and we must say that it will die and it will not survive if this will happen. There is systematic attack, systematic game to malign this great institution," the court said.
The bench said letters were being written and books were being printed in matters pending in the court and this practice has to be stopped.
"Do the rich and powerful of this country think that they can remote control the Supreme Court," the bench said.
The hard hitting observations by the bench came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said there should be a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) on the allegations levelled by advocate Utsav Singh Bains in his affidavit as he has claimed a larger conspiracy which concerns the administration of justice.
"You (Mehta) are provoking us to speak. We are not inclined to say but now listen. So many things are going on. There are serious allegations that need to be probed. The Supreme Court cannot be run by money power or political power," Justice Mishra said.
"It is an institution of you people and not ours. Judges come and go but if these things will happen then it (institution) will die and it will not survive," the bench said.
In an apparent reference to the controversies that plagued the top judiciary last year, Justice Mishra observed that truth has not come out yet.
"Whether truth has come out about the last year's incident? It has not come out yet. People should know the truth. This has to stop," he said, without elaborating any specific instance.
The observation assumes significance as four senior-most judges of the apex court -- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- had held an unprecedented presser on January 12 last year and 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.
During the hearing on Thursday, the bench said, "We cannot mention several things. People are trying to manage the court registry by money power. When somebody tries to improve things, he is killed and maligned? We have come to this extent of blackmailing." The bench said that noted jurists like Nani Palkhivala, Fali S Nariman and K Parasaran have made this institution great, and now everyday news of bench fixing comes to the fore.
"Now everyday we hear news of bench-fixing. This system of fixing has no place. Everyday, there are wrong practices in this court. Only 4-5 per cent lawyers are bringing a bad name to this institution. Do not provoke us any further," it said.
"We are worried. Why we have come to it. We are very concerned," the court said.
It added: "The day has come when we have to rise and tell the rich and powerful that you cannot do this. You are playing with fire. We do not want to take names but everybody tries to influence us every time there is a big matter.
"A message has to be sent to the country that this court is not vulnerable." At the outset, Bains filed an additional affidavit in a sealed cover in the court in support of his claims.
The bench asked Attorney General K K Venugopal about the issue of privilege claimed by Bains over some communications being protected under provisions of the Advocates Act.
Venugopal, while referring to provisions of law, said there was no lawyer-client relationship in this case as Bains has filed 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.
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 on affidavit of Bains and the separate in-house inquiry committee proceedings on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI.
Bains had filed an affidavit following the 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.