New Delhi: Former chief justice of India and Rajya Sabha MP Ranjan Gogoi Wednesday questioned why only the judges who took up post-retirement jobs were criticised and not the “activist judges” or those who take up commercial work after they retire.
Gogoi said this while speaking at an online seminar, titled ‘Ensuring an Independent Judiciary Under our Constitution: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges’, hosted by the Confederation of Alumni for National Law Universities (CAN) Foundation.
While Gogoi was the keynote speaker, Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi was the co-speaker.
During the seminar, Gogoi spoke about three categories of retired judges. First, he said, were the “activist judges” who spoke about issues around freedom of speech and the judiciary.
Second, he said, were those judges who did professional independent work, like taking up commercial work or arbitration. Third, are the judges who take up post-retirement jobs, the former CJI said.
Gogoi then demanded to know why it was only the third category of judges who were criticised.
“Who are the activist judges working with? Who is giving them the platform? No questions asked… Similarly, retiring judges getting friendly with lawyers doing commercial work, no questions asked. How does work get to these judges and not to the others?” he asked.
Gogoi also referred to a 2016 study conducted by think-tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, which found that out of the last 100 judges who retired from the Supreme Court, 70 had taken up post-retirement jobs.
“Does this mean the independence of the judiciary is compromised?” he asked.
He then asserted that as long as a judge is “true to his functions, post-retirement is okay”.
Gogoi, who retired on 17 November last year, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha as a member of eminence by President Ram Nath Kovind in March this year. His nomination to the Upper House created a furore and reignited the debate on post-retirement jobs for judges without a cooling off period, while questions were also raised on the independence of the judiciary.
During his tenure in the Supreme Court, Gogoi was part of several landmark judgments, including the Ayodhya case and the Rafale review.
‘It is a painful duty, affects your mental peace’
Gogoi also spoke about the non-disclosure of reasons for transfer of judges.
He referred to the “Madras transfer” in this regard, apparently referring to the transfer of former Madras High Court judge, Justice V.K. Tahilramani, to Meghalaya High Court, after which she resigned.
“If I were to upload those reasons, god knows what would happen,” he said.
The reasons, he said, usually include the conduct, character and financial deals of judges, and asserted that disclosure of such reasons would open floodgates of criticism.
“It is a very painful duty. It affects your sleep, your mental peace… the seat of a judge doing administrative work is not a seat of power or comfort or indulgence, it is a seat of duty. It is not comfortable,” he said.
Gogoi also tried to justify the Ayodhya judgment being anonymous, claiming that it wasn’t the first time this was happening.
He said he has been the author of 13 such judgments, where the author of the verdict was not mentioned in the judgment. “It is jurisprudentially and logically acceptable,” he added.