Gogoi too formidable to be ruffled by sickening behaviour of politicians trapped in political disarr
Ranjan Gogoi, the former Chief Justice of India walked into Rajya Sabha on March 19, 2020 to take oath as a nominated member. That he was inducted in the upper house only after four months of his retirement shocked the righteous and morally elevated Congress and opposition MPs who called it yet another brazen attempt by PM Modi to tell the nation that he gives a damn to institutional sanctity. As Gogoi was taking oath, they staged a walk out, shouting 'shame, shame', giving civility a burial. You don't welcome even an enemy in your house with boos. That's not our culture but who cares!
Gogoi's hecklers claim that his nomination will henceforth encourage sitting judges to give favorable verdicts to humor governments of the day so that they are offered post-retirement jobs with free bungalows to stay, vehicles to roam around and several perks to enjoy for a few more years. Retired justices like M. Lokur, MB Shah and Kurian Joseph who were not offered any post-retirement positions are crying hoarse that such kindness has set a wrong precedence for future governments to follow and undermine the independence of judiciary. They apparently have no faith in the judicial integrity and moral strength of sitting judges of the Supreme and High Courts. For them, every one of them is saleable and they are just waiting for a nudge from the government to tailor their judgements. Can you think of a more bizarre hypothesis?
Owaisi, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibbal, Manu Singhvi and other practising denigrators of Modi say that Ranjan Gogoi's Rajya Sabha membership is a quid pro quo. They are gifted with supernatural power to clearly see what happened in the past. They know that before every judgement was delivered both Gogoi and PM Modi had midnight conspiratorial sessions where they decided what the judgement should be like. Thereafter, Ranjan Gogoi forced other justices of the Bench and made them write the judgements accordingly.
Let's try to understand why the quid pro quo gang is so insanely upset with Gogoi. In the Rafael's case, Gogoi did not find any corruption or deviation from laid down procedure for procurement of the fighter aircraft. In reaching to this conclusion, he had rightly opted to examine classified papers in sealed cover but his critics argue that those papers should have been made available to them to examine the government's bona fide. Who will tell them that such papers are circulated strictly on the need to know basis to protect the critical aspect of the national security? Chief Justice Gogoi was absolutely right when he called for the papers for all Justices of the Bench to peruse and satisfy themselves whether they were indeed extremely sensitive and whether they substantiated the government's argument as to why Rafael was bought at the agreed price.
Gogoi's judicial impartiality is also questioned because he did not promptly quash the Act passed by the parliament that abrogated Article 371 and 35A and kept postponing hearing on habeas corpus pleas related to alleged assault on fundamental rights in the state. The critics expected him to allow perpetuation of a temporary constitutional provision and thus cause unprecedented chaos and confusion in the state by letting perpetrators of violence let loose. He was wise to wait for the heat to settle down and let the time and people decide whether Delhi's move was good for the integrity of India and prosperity of Kashmiris.
The allegation that Gogoi kept PM Modi in good humour stems mainly from the preposterous notion that he was fulfilling BJP's poll manifesto that sought to remove Article 370, implement NRC for the whole country (Gogoi provided a firm roadmap for NRC in Assam) and construct Ram temple in Ayodhya. Instead of ridiculing him, they should have appreciated his enormous courage to confront the problem of illegal immigration in Assam headlong and settle the Ram Janam Bhumi land dispute that was hanging for 135 years and which former Chief Justices were scared to touch even with barge's pole. He is also accused of referring the Sabarimala judgement that had permitted the menstruating women to enter the temple, to a 7- Judge Bench and thus reopened the issue to please the BJP that had opposed the court's interference in Hindus' religious practices. You should actually laud the Man for letting this religious practice be discussed by more Justices with diverse views to evolve an acceptable consensus. The earlier ruling had been given by 3 judges Bench including a woman Judge who had opposed interfering with centuries' old religious practice.
It may be relevant at this point to know the judgements that Gogoi delivered against the government. He had struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act that had sought to regulate appointment and service condition of various tribunals. Then he had declared right to privacy as a fundamental right, abolished homosexuality and ruled that case against Fadanwis, former chief minister of Maharashtra, regarding suppression of fact in filing his nomination paper for assembly elections was prosecutable. The quid pro quo brigade may argue that Modi and Gogoi had reached an understanding that the latter would give adverse judgements in pedestrian cases and favourable ones in important cases to lull people in believing that he favoured no one. This is absurd. You don't do such fine tuning along with two or more Justices unless you are a conductor of philharmonic orchestra. For heaven's sake! Trust him to give his fiercely independent perspective on a whole range of issues that you may find educative. Just because he has been nominated by PM Modi, does not make this bold, no-nonsense and upright man an NDA surrogate.
(Amar Bhushan is a former special director with the Research and Analysis Wing)
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