New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed anguish over the "systematic attack" on the judiciary and said the time has come to tell the rich and powerful of the country that they will "burn their fingers if they play with fire". 

The observation was directed at people, who a lawyer claimed, were also involved in influencing the decision to refer a case to a particular judge, or as the court put it, “bench fixing”.

The Supreme Court had set up the three-judge bench led by Justice Mishra last week to take up an affidavit filed by a lawyer Utsav Bains who had alleged a conspiracy to frame Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case.

As the lawyer detailed his allegations in a secret affidavit, the Supreme Court judges said there was “a systematic attack or game to run the court”.

A peeved Justice Arun Misra, addressing solicitor general Tushar Mehta, said, "This institution will come to an end going by what has been going on here in the past 3-4 years, and the kind of allegations that have been levelled. We keep hearing that bench fixing happens, but this must end in any circumstance. 

Misra said the Supreme Court was not being run by political clout and money power. "People don't understand they are playing with fire, but the time has come...we shall not sit silent now," he said. 

On Wednesday's hearing, the court had underlined its resolve to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. “We will enquire, enquire and enquire till we get to the root of the issue,” the bench had said.

Also read: Ranjan Gogoi controversy: Supreme Court summons CBI, IB, Delhi Police chiefs to probe into conspiracy claim

It had "requested" chiefs of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Bureau and Delhi Police to take over all material on the charge about a conspiracy against the Chief Justice.

Lawyer Utsav Bains’ affidavit filed before the bench that also comprised justices Rohintan Fali Nariman and Deepak Gupta had also referred to some sacked staffers of the top court who had ganged up to implicate the Chief Justice of India in a false charge.

Two of them had been sacked by Chief Justice Gogoi for changing a court order in a recent case and a police case filed against them. The judges have said this wasn’t the first time where court staffers were found to have crossed the line. But this was the first where strong action was taken against them.

“All sorts of things happen here… The powerful of the country feel that they can run the place,” the bench said on Thursday.

“If anyone tries to do something about it, accusations are made worse than those made at present,” Justice Mishra said.

The observation is seen in the context of the sexual harassment case filed by a former court staffer against Chief Justice Gogoi. The country’s top judge had last week held a special hearing where he had described it as an attempt to deactivate the office of the CJI.

Justice Mishra has clarified that the harassment allegation against the Chief Justice and the claims of a conspiracy against the Chief Justice were two distinct and independent proceedings.

A three-judge committee led by Justice SA Bobde has been set up to look into the sexual harassment accusation. This panel will meet on Friday.