From the Viewsroom

Govt rewards Ranjan Gogoi

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on March 20, 2020

Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi   -  THE HINDU

His appointment to the Rajya Sabha strikes at constitutional values

India’s former chief justice Ranjan Gogoi metamorphosed into MP Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday, and his swearing-in triggered almost unparalleled scenes. Congress MPs, shouting slogans, walked out in protest when he was taking the oath. Gogoi appeared unfazed by the anger directed at him, and insisted: “They will welcome me very soon.” Earlier, in an extraordinary declaration, he said he would be a bridge between the judiciary and the legislature. He made no reference to hallowed concepts like independence of the judiciary or separation of powers between different arms of government. But it was clearly a very different Gogoi we saw on display from the one who, along with three other judges — Jasti Chalameswar, Madan Lokur, Kurian Joseph — held a press conference in 2018 to protest against the then-Chief Justice Deepak Misra. What happened in between remains a mystery.

Certainly, Gogoi disappointed many lawyers who believed he’d be a tough-talking new broom who’d sweep away courtroom cobwebs. Instead, we got a judge who adopted controversial procedures like asking the government to submit details about the Rafale pricing in a sealed envelope, then ruled in its favour. The court also dilly-dallied on habeas corpus petitions that came before it after abolition of Article 370. The Ayodhya judgment, key for the government, was also given by a Gogoi-headed bench. Equally controversially, on December 12, 2018, the collegium approved the elevation of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon to the Supreme Court. After Justices Lokur and Joseph retired, Gogoi simply did not forward Nandrajog’s and Menon’s names to the government.

The BJP has defended its decision to bring Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha by arguing that the Congress had done the same with ex-chief justice Ranganath Mishra and Justice Baharul Islam. But there was a nine-year gap between Mishra’s stint as chief justice and his Rajya Sabha tenure. In sharp contrast, it’s barely four months since Gogoi’s retirement. More importantly, one wrong does not justify a second one. The BJP may have erred by appointing Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha soon after he retired. It has struck a huge blow to our constitutional set-up — one from which the country may not quickly recover.

The writer is Editorial Consultant with BusinessLine

Published on March 20, 2020

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