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'Incorrect, motivated': Arun Jaitley denies reports of differences between AG, govt

May 11 (AZINS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday dismissed as "absolutely incorrect" reports of differences between Attorney General KK Venugopal and the government with regard to the sexual harassment case against the Chief Justice.

Venugopal had written to all the Supreme Court judges to set up a committee of three retired judges of the apex court to look into allegations of sexual harassment made against CJI Ranjan Gogoi by a dismissed woman employee of the court.

The matter, however, was scrutinised by a panel of three sitting judges of the Supreme Court.

"The motivated news item of differences between the Attorney General and the government is absolutely incorrect. As one of the senior most members of the Bar, he (Venugopal) certainly has his views on some issues. The Government respects him for the objectivity of his advice," Jaitley said in a tweet.

Venugopal said he had written the letter on April 22, before the three-member in-house committee headed by Justice SA Bobde was set up to hold an inquiry into the allegations.

The panel of three SC judges – Justices SA Bobde, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee - who proceeded ex-parte against the complainant has given a clean chit to CJI Gogoi and declared the former Supreme Court employee's charges of sexual harassment to be unsubstantial.

Clarifying on a news report, Venugopal Friday said: "I admit that I had written a letter before the appointment of an in-house inquiry committee seeking appointment of three retired judges of the Supreme Court."

The law officer also said he wrote a second letter clarifying his position that the earlier one was written in his personal capacity as a senior bar member having an experience of 65 years.

Venugopal, 88, whose term lasts until June 2020, had written the letter two days after allegations of sexual harassment against Gogoi surfaced. The letter contained a request to make retired judges a part of the In-House Committee, which was a panel formed to inquire into the allegations against Gogoi.

The next day, on April 23, he shot yet another letter to the judges explaining that his suggestion is purely in his personal capacity and that he is under no pressure from the government.

This clarification was relevant as the suo moto petition taken up based on the allegations of sexual harassment by the Supreme Court on April 20 was a result of the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's — who defended the CJI on behalf of the Centre — insistence. This clearly indicates that while one law officer was coming forward to help the CJI in his hour of crisis, Venugopal should not be seen as someone frustrating the process. Venugopal's letters surfaced on an online news portal, which suggested that the A-G had to clarify owing to the Government not taking kindly to his letter.

However, denying rumours of any rift with the Centre, the AG said, "Except for the fact that I wrote the letters, what the report states is wholly incorrect." He further said that he had no intention to resign at this stage. Due to his advanced age and recent health problems, the A-G has been keeping unwell. He underwent a major operation recently which kept him away from the Court for a few days.