The Unjust Appointment of Justice Gogoi.
The former Chief Justice of India, Rajan Gogoi, has recently been appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha and this nomination by the President Ram Nath Kovind gained a lot of traction and raised many questions. It is an example of the erosion of the independence of the three institutions that our country stands on; the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary; this core value of independence took a beating when Justice Gogoi was nominated to the Upper House of the biggest democracy in the world. The core values of our institutions are upheld by the doctrine of separation of powers of these institutions and this is a non-negotiable clause that has been reiterated by the defenders our constitution ever since the beginning of times for our independent nation. The system of checks and balances, as taught in our school textbooks as well, is what keeps the Indian legislation intact, the executive responsible and the judiciary independent. But this system is constantly being corrupted by decisions like the one in question, wherein inclining with the dominant political leaders gets you a safe and full proof retirement. The Indian judiciary is evidently weakening and losing its independence. It is not unknown to the public that Gogoi’s judgements more than just often sided by the ruling party and its governance. Even though he is not the first retired judge or chief justice to have entered the public office after retiring, but his sudden nomination – 4 months post retirement – by the President is rather questionable. The notion of post-retirement benefits for judges has been hotly debated in our country for a very long time, especially in the case of Justice Fazl Ali’s early appointment as the governor of Odisha in 1952. However, Gogoi’s appointment has reignited this debate. He seems to have favoured the Bharatiya Janata Party in his judgements in several cases, some of them being milestones in the judicial history of India. One of these iconic judgements is the Ayodhya judgment passed in November 2019 that concluded the land dispute in the favour of Ram Mandir which has been a core Hindu nationalist agenda of the BJP. Another key judgment, by the bench led by Gogoi, was the clean chit to the BJP government about the questionable irregularities in the government’s purchase of 36 Rafale jets. Not just this, the same bench also put a criminal contempt case against Rahul Gandhi, the Congress and opposition leader, for his remarks against
Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, in connection to the Rafale deal; however, these charges were later dropped. Not just these cases, even the somewhat dismissal of the habeas corpus petitions by the Supreme court made sure that Justice Gogoi now functioned as an arm of the Modi government. The illegality of the arrests was never questioned and this very step can be seen as a defeat of the very essence of filing a habeas corpus in the first place. Strengthening the claim of Gogoi’s inclination is the judgement which sow the seeds of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam since 2014, up until its finalisation in 2019. This decision not only laid a strong base for the BJP to introduce the Citizen Amendment Act but also to propose a nationwide NRC. There are several other cases and judgments that stand as strong testimonies against Justice Gogoi’s personal inclination towards the Modi led government; and, as a former Chief Justice of India, these decisions reinstate the fact that the judiciary’s independence that had been originally introduced by our constitution makers is being compromised with every such decision, putting the biggest democracy of the world in jeopardy. The independence of these institutions is the only way we can assure that there is a system of checks and balances in our democracy and the powers are not misused by the head of our government. It is sad to see how the judgements passed by a senior judge are completely influenced by the lust for a cushiony retirement. Although, there is still hope as long as we keep questioning and seeking answers in order to preserve our constitution and the independence it stands for. The nomination to the Rajya Sabha of a former Chief Justice is sadly not just the only problem with Justice Gogoi’s membership of the Parliament. He was accused of sexual harassment by a woman staff of the Supreme Court of India. What further complicated the case was the self-appointment of Justice Gogoi as the head of the bench that reviewed these allegations against himself. The complainant raised many questions against the procedure followed by the committee, many of which directly dealt with the violation of the principles of natural justice itself, but all in vain. The complainant, however, ultimately preferred not to pursue her case. In one of her statements, the complainant even said that she had lost all faith
in the country’s justice system and the appointment of Justice Gogoi has definitely sparked similar feelings in the hearts of many Indians.
image courtsey: The Wire