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‘Rebel’ judge to Rajya Sabha: Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi hurting SC image or being harshly judged?

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi has been appointed to Rajya Sabha as a member of eminence by President Ram Nath Kovind, four months after his retirement.

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Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi has been appointed to Rajya Sabha as a member of eminence by President Ram Nath Kovind, four months after his retirement. Justice Gogoi presided over cases like Ayodhya, triple talaq and Rafale defence deal. Gogoi and three other senior most Supreme Court judges had held a press conference in January 2018 against then-CJI Dipak Misra, saying that democracy was “in danger”.

ThePrint asks: ‘Rebel’ judge to Rajya Sabha: Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi hurting SC image or being harshly judged?

Gogoi fails to meet the criteria for appointment to Rajya Sabha, conduct as CJI far from exemplary 

Arghya Sengupta
Founder and director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

Post-retirement appointment of judges by the government is not new. My own research has shown that for Supreme Court retirees between 2002 to 2012, over 70 percent of retired Supreme Court judges got appointments by the government.

However, we must keep in mind that Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure as the Chief Justice of India was perhaps one of the most fractious tenures that one has seen. This is primarily because of two incidents—first, the sexual harassment allegations against him during which his conduct was far from exemplary, particularly for being on the bench in his own cause. Second, his supervision of the NRC in Assam where he was more executive-minded than the executive. Very few Chief Justices have done as much to belittle the cause of judicial independence and fairness as Gogoi.

With this appointment, no pretence remains either on the side of the government or the judiciary that judicial independence needs to be seen to be protected. Any government would know that the appointment of this nature would damage the perception of judicial independence. Any judge would know that his or her acceptance of such a post would corrode the moral fabric of the judiciary even further. But it’s clear—homilies aside, neither really care about an independent judiciary.

The technical criteria for nomination of MPs to the Rajya Sabha by the President is special knowledge or practical experience in literature, art, science or social service. Are there some qualities of Gogoi’s that we are unaware of that makes him eligible?

Congress has appointed many judges to Rajya Sabha. Why raise questions on Modi govt’s motives now?

Ishkaran Bhandari

Justice Gogoi has been nominated by the President. The condition for any nomination should be that the person is eminently qualified and suitable.

There cannot be any doubt that a CJI is an eminently qualified person, who is a legal expert and meets the relevant criteria. There are no doubts about Justice Gogoi’s qualifications.

Some questions are being raised on whether a former judge of the Supreme Court should be nominated for Rajya Sabha. Judiciary works on precedence and we have the example of Justice Baharul Islam who was a Rajya Sabha member from the Congress. He later got appointed to the High Court, became a judge of the Supreme Court and gave orders in cases involving Congress CMs. After his retirement from the Supreme Court, he was again appointed to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress.

CJI Ranganath Misra was appointed to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress after retirement. When no objection was raised then against the Congress, then questions shouldn’t be raised now unfairly either on the Modi government’s ulterior motive.

That being said, if a uniform policy is made that no judge after retirement should take government jobs or nomination, that would be good for the judiciary. But in absence of any such rule or law, we cannot selectively target judges.

Gogoi has destroyed the perception of independence of judiciary and damaged Supreme Court’s reputation

Anurag Bhaskar
Affiliated Faculty of the Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School

For an institution like the Supreme Court, what matters the most is its independence as well as the perception of independence. This requires a high standard of conduct and a certain level of restraint from judges in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.

By taking a Rajya Sabha nomination within a short span after his retirement, Justice Gogoi has destroyed the perception of independence of judiciary. Gogoi was the Chief Justice of India and presided over a number of matters where the government had a strong stake. In those cases, we witnessed judicial evasiveness and delay, which directly or indirectly benefited the government.

He is the same person who had hidden behind the notion of ‘independence of judiciary’, when accused of sexual harassment, and used his powers to tyrannize a proper probe into the matter. At that time, the top officers of the government – the Attorney General and the Solicitor General – had defended Gogoi. His acceptance to a Rajya Sabha seat definitely raises a doubt in the public mind about his conduct as a judge. We have had judges like former Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, who rejected the offer of Rajya Sabha membership made.

The former and current judges must speak in unequivocal terms against this unethical conduct of Justice Gogoi, which has damaged the reputation of the Supreme Court.

Retired judges should not be given any position, or refuse if any offer is made. It is more about propriety than legality

Faizan Mustafa
Constitutional Law Expert

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s appointment comes only four months after his retirement, which is too early. Ideally, there should have been a cooling-off period of at least two-three years. As the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Gogoi had dealt with cases of clear interest to the government. He delayed hearings on Kashmir lockdown, did not give enough importance to the habeas-corpus petition and also delivered the judgment in Ayodhya land dispute case. On NRC, some of the observations about the number of people in detention have shocked many civil society activists as the Supreme Court is constitutionally mandated to protect people’s liberties.

The government could have chosen anyone. Several senior retired CJIs are available who had given judgments that were consistent with the ideological position of the current government.

Gogoi’s appointment cannot be compared with Justice Hidayatullah’s case because the latter had retired in 1970 when Congress was in power and was elected Vice President by both the Houses of Parliament in 1979 under Janta party government. Similarly, former CJI Ranganath Mishra also joined politics after many years of retirement.

Ideally, the judges should not be given any position after retirement but they must get the last salary as pension. The judiciary decides many political questions and its judgments help one or the other political dispensations. So even if an offer is made, the onus lies on the judge to refuse. It is more a question of propriety than legality. By refusing nomination Justice Gagoi would have enhanced the stature of our judges.

Ranjan Gogoi has been nominated for his commitment to ideas of due process and judicial integrity

Satya Prasoon

Justice Gogoi has been nominated for his commitment to ideas of due process, judicial independence, integrity and separation of powers. He has been a tireless practitioner of these ideals right from handling of the Rafale controversy, finalising Assam NRC, impartial handling of sexual harassment complaint and legal imprimatur to Babri Masjid dispute.

Additionally, he was an astute master of the roster who refused to be waylaid and didn’t let precious judicial time be wasted on non-issues like electoral bonds or habeas corpus petitions in Kashmir. The BJP’s understanding of these ideas is best exemplified through the tenure of Justice Gogoi. An ‘eminent personality’ who can carry the baton of “sabka sath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas”.

May his Rajya Sabha stint be as stellar and unblemished as his innings as the CJI. His
nomination is a judicial high noon moment filled with the hope that in times to come, the courts and the executive can speak in one voice. This nomination might pave the path for such institutional camaraderie and solidarity in future and what more can one ask for in the present times.

Also read: MP assembly trust vote deferred: Will it save Kamal Nath govt or delay the inevitable?

By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. In a country lacking talented people, good example is Congress and regional parties unable to find leaders outside one family, it is necessary to appoint talented people to position so that their talent can b utilized. following outdated notion of CJI not accepting position for years after retirement is getting old men with foggy mind, which are no value to nation. After seeing old men as party leaders and unwilling to leave India should wisen up and throw off nonsense propagated by activists, who don’t contribute anything to nation.

  2. Is Ex CJI Ranjan Gogoi disrespecting Article 50?

  3. Ishkaran Bhandari : When told ‘muh se hago mat’, then you are saying ‘so and so hugged and so it is ok’! Well, see a psychologist, sir! A coomon man understands much more than you so-called educated ones. That’s the truth.

    • Idiot, it is good to have judges in Rajya sabha, if we already have lawyers there. Taklif kyun hui tujhe congress ke dale

  4. Because Ranjan Gogoi is himself defending the nomination and because it has come so SOON AFTER his retirement, it must be construed that he was privy to this decision when he gave two shocking verdicts SOON BEFORE his retirement – – one on Rafale clean chit to Narendra Modi and the other on Ayodhya. Therefore, both those decisions should be now reviewed.
    Ranjan Gogoi is not a ‘rebel’ but a typical sub-par ambitious man. He has so badly shaken a poor man’s faith in “justice” that he should lose all his retirement benefits as a jurist.

    • Two shocking verdicts? What did you congress stooge wanted in them. There were 5 judges not one. And when your cong was doing it was fine.

      • In another comment on THE HINDU I have said just that – – the other judges who sat with him should start revealing Ranjan Gogoi’s mechinations otherwise their own credibility is at stake. First of all it’s not “my Congress”, I belong to no party. Even as a bystander I challenge you to show any example from any other regime that matches in absurdity with choice of Anil Ambani for manufacture of high tech state of the art equipment. Not just that, the amount of 30,000 crores is also of a little significance.

  5. The issue is not what congress did wrong in the past. In fact, for every misconduct in the public life, one can find an instance from the past of congress. But, that does not justify BJP acting like congress and rewarding a former CJI. Of course, governments act in this manner. But, as former CJI, Ranjan Gogoi ought to have displayed better sense of propriety. For accepting this sinecure, all his judicial conduct would be now suspect as doing favour to the present government. These are the people who trumpet about judicial independence at every opportunity. Hypocricy, they name is Judiciary!

    • Why not interest matters, I would be very happy if present govt dismantle this british given democracy for one party rule. China developed because of that.

  6. While a left-leaning judge, who retired recently was praised for not handing over the death penalty through his carrier! The Judge was a catholic by faith. Clearly, he held his faith above the constitution and the laws of the land. I even read an article in the print praising him for it. Thankfully, I do not hold judges to a high standard of individual morality. We should rather rely on the checks and balances within the system.

    • Iare you talking about that anti-Ibdian kurian Joseph. That guy was involved with churches while being cj of hp.

  7. When librandus have no legal options, they start using moral high grounds with dos and don’ts. I am not surprised that Gogoi’s nomination to Rajya Sabha is not being judged based on how Rajya Sabha would benefit from the experience of a former CJI. Librandus problem is not Gogoi but Modi whom they have declared their perpetual enemy for imaginary fears that they sell to Muslims for political gains.

    It’s not easy for a former CJI to work as an MP. Gogoi as an MP should be an asset to Rajya Sabha. His critics have no nationalistic purpose in mind. Giving space to their criticism is wastage of media space.

  8. In all this talk about precedence, we are forgetting that the Congress appointed Mr MS Gill, a congressman who was appointed as EC to check Dr TN Sheshan then the sole Election Commissioner, and later became CEC and also joined Mr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet as a Union Minister.

  9. Having lived a full life, gentleman could have quietly faded away into the sunset. Not sure how many Indians will be happy to see his smiling visage on the TV screen for another six years.

    • Atleast majority will be happy can’t say the same for Arabi followers and their some Indian Dallas.

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