Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will retire on 17 November after an eventful stint of 13 months. He was one of the four dissenting Supreme Court judges in the historic January 2018 press conference. During his tenure, CJI Gogoi delivered landmark verdicts like those on Ayodhya, the RTI jurisdiction, Assam’s NRC, Rafale deal.
ThePrint asks: How will CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s legacy impact the Supreme Court?
Disappointing that as dissenting judge of January 2018, CJI Gogoi continued same practices in his term
Senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s term in the Supreme Court has further declined the top court’s credibility.
Three significant examples illustrate this point. The first was the sexual harassment case against him by a Supreme Court staffer; the case was buried without following any proper procedure. The second major instance of his failure was in the context of the appointments made to the Supreme Court and the high courts where it seemed that the collegium was simply refusing to stand up to the central government and effectively giving the Modi government a veto over the appointments process. Controversies relating to the transfer of Justice Akil Kureshi of the Gujarat High Court and Justice V.K. Tahilramani of the Madras High Court only showed the CJI Gogoi-led collegium in poor light. The third instance relates to the impression created that all sensitive matters in the Supreme Court concerning the central government will only be heard by a bench involving Justice Arun Mishra.
Ironically, this was precisely the reason why then-Supreme Court judge Gogoi and three of his colleagues had held a press conference in January 2018, and it has been most disappointing to see that CJI Gogoi continued to undertake the same practices that brought disrepute to the Supreme Court.
The NRC and the Ayodhya verdicts and the extraordinary delays in hearing important cases such as the electoral bonds and Article 370 have all contributed to the loss of credibility of the Supreme Court.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi did a commendable job in all controversial cases that he gave judgments on
Justice B.S. Chauhan
Former chairman of Law Commission of India and former judge of Supreme Court
The judgments delivered by the judge are what leave an impact, and not the person who gave them. This is true for Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi as well.
It will take some time for people to realise the impact of his judgments. The decision delivered on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case was remarkable. To convince everyone on the bench for a unanimous verdict on a decades-old and controversial case was an extremely difficult task and CJI Gogoi achieved that feat.
He did a commendable job in all controversial cases that he gave judgments on or referred to another court. It will take time to see how some of these judgments will be accepted, and we must certainly give them that time. How people have accepted his judgments, how many people file reviews and how many review petitions are accepted — all these factors will be telling of the impact of his judgments.
It is too early to assess the impact of CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s legacy on the judiciary at this time.
CJI Gogoi has done nothing positive to further interests of judiciary or raise Supreme Court’s stature
Former judge, Delhi HC
CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s term in the Supreme Court has been extremely checkered. He is the first rebel Supreme Court justice we have had anywhere in the world. No one would have become a chief justice after rebelling against his own system.
Throughout his career, he hasn’t earned highly respectable points, and has been a highly controversial figure. In the last three days of his journey as the Chief Justice of India, he seems to have gained popularity for bringing closure to the Ayodhya land title dispute and the case of CJI’s office under the RTI jurisdiction. He will hold on to these landmark judgments, taking credit for resolving these issues once and for all.
This is the only imprint that is likely to contribute positively to his general public image; otherwise, his image as the CJI and as a Supreme Court judge is just appalling.
However, it is important to note that people have very short memories, they are likely to forget his past and glorify his present. Otherwise, to my mind, he has done nothing positive to further the interests of the judiciary or raise the stature of the Supreme Court as such.
CJI Gogoi’s term created trend of sealed cover litigation, which lawyers are using as tactic to hide details
Legal Correspondent, ThePrint
CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure led to the evolution of what is now termed as the “sealed cover” litigation. The doctrine essentially meant that any information that the counsel of party deems as “secret” and not fit to share with other parties, could be submitted to the judges in a sealed cover. It also meant that any reliance on such documents would not be revealed in court verdicts too.
However, this was subject to only orders by the court. But ever since CJI Gogoi started this practice from Assam’s NRC case, there have been numerous cases where sealed covers are submitted even when the judges do not ask for it. This essentially shows that this sealed cover doctrine has now metamorphosed into a tactic by lawyers to keep information away from the public and the opposing counsels.
Another change has been the nature of the Supreme Court’s authority in collegium appointments. Whether it is the case of Justice Vikram Nath or Justice Akil Kureshi, there have been instances under CJI Gogoi where the collegium had to accept the central government’s recommendations without any reiteration. This only sets the stage for further executive interference in judicial appointments.
However, the way CJI Gogoi directed subordinate courts to fill vacancies and restricted urgent mentions in court to only important matters will only help the court in reducing case pendencies in the long run.
By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint
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