President Ram Nath Kovind today nominated former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha. Soon thereafter, Gogoi said he would go to Delhi on 18 March and take the oath of an MP; “then I will talk to the media in detail why I accepted this proposal and why I am going to the Rajya Sabha”.
Leading the section of polity that is questioning the nomination of Gogoi, INC spokesman Randeep Surjewala said it was the freedom of the judiciary, the last weapon of the people of the country against the government and administration, was now doubtful, ignoring several instances of similar ‘post-retirement’ benefits the INC governments gave to former chief justices and holders of other high offices considered neutral right after their retirement.
In the year 2016, think-tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy had come up with a report that showed 70 of the last 100 judges who retired from the Supreme Court as of 12 February that year had taken up post-retirement jobs of central and state governments.
A report dated 2018 said that, since 1950, there had been 44 CJIs who accepted post-retirement jobs. The Congress had ruled the country between 1947 and 1977 at a stretch and then in the period 1980-1989, 1991-1996 and 2004-2014.
In fact, the Vidhi Centre had said in its report that in 56% of the appointments, the eligibility criteria made only former judges qualify. As for the history of the Constitution of India, the Constituent Assembly had debated whether judges should be debarred from post-retirement jobs. But while PK Sen, KT Shah, HV Kamath, K Santhanam, MA Ayyangar, Naziruddin Ahmad and Jaspat Roy Kapoor flagged the concern, the bar was never set. On paper, the most pungent criticism of this practice came from the 14th Report of the Law Commission of India.
Case of Gogoi
Ironically, Gogoi, while hearing a case of appointments in a tribunal, had said that the post-retirement jobs given to the judges were a smear on democracy. “What does the government want to say whether to become lawful or honest or become judge Loya,” he had remarked.
Since the nomination of Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha, there has been a stir in the political corridors. When Gogoi was nominated to the upper house, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi added a communal colour to it, saying, “Ranjan Gogoi ke faislon se BJP ko political fāidah hua hai aur Gogoi ne khud kahā thā ke retirement ke bād appointment nahin honā chāhiye (the verdicts of Ranjan Gogoi had benefited the BJP politically and Gogoi had himself said that judges should not be appointed after they retire).”
Former CJI Gogoi retired from the highest post in the Indian judiciary on 17 November 2019. Even before he retired, a bench headed by him had ruled in the Ayodhya case and some other important matters.
Gogoi’s tenure as the CJI was around 13-and-a-half months long. During this period, he officiated over a total of 47 verdicts, many of them historic.
Gogoi was born on 18 November 1954. He started his career as an advocate. He initially practiced in the Gauhati High Court. He was considered a legal expert in constitutional, taxation and corporate affairs.