Thursday 27 January 2022
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Gogoi reminisces: Bureaucrats greater problem than politicians

Instances of political interference were fewer than meddling by top bureaucrats, former CJI Ranjan Gogoi says, putting the contents of his book in perspective

Former Chief of India Ranjan Gogoi says he did not have to face much of a political interference and had a rather “dream run” as a judge. However, there were a few exceptions he says in his book. One of those occurred while he was an SC judge hearing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) case, when a senior bureaucrat visited him at his house, asking him to go slow on the issue.

“I don’t remember exactly, but he had come to my residence in January. So I must have been obviously number 2 or number 3 judge, perhaps sometime in 2018 or later part of 2017,” Justice (retired) Gogoi said during a conversation over a range of subjects brought to the fore by his recently published memoirs. “I told him why should I do that? I told him I don’t like interference with my judicial work.”

On 31 August 2019, the final list of the much-hyped National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam to identify “genuine citizens” was published. It left out around 19 lakh of the total 3.29 crore applicants. The whole was completed in five years at a cost of around Rs 1,600 crore under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India.

Alleging the list as defective after it was published, several cases were filed in the SC. The Assam government has taken a stand that this exercise, being “faulty”, will not be accepted and the state is ready to verify anomalies under the top court’s supervision. After the NRC list was first published in Assam, Home Minister announced that the union government would implement the process across the country.

Asked whether the kind of meddling he faced from the bureaucrat was a commonplace occurrence in his experience, Gogoi disagreed.

Besides two instances of interference, “which I mentioned in my book, it was a dream run for me. I functioned as I thought a judge should function”, he said. “I had told them that there is nobody in this who dares to approach Ranjan Gogoi, to ask him to do something that his conscience will not permit.”

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