Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Thursday took oath as a member of Rajya Sabha, amid uproar in the House as opposition members chanted “shame”. His nomination to the Upper House by the President has been marred by criticism from the Opposition as well as former Supreme Court judges.
The Opposition has said the move was an “unpardonable” assault on the basic structure of the Constitution. The Congress said the nomination was “one of the most serious, unprecedented and unpardonable assaults on the basic structure of the Constitution”, while the CPM said it showed the government “brazenly undermining the independence of the judiciary”.
Meanwhile, retired Supreme Court judges Justices Madan B Lokur, A K Patnaik, Kurian Joseph and J Chelameswar, questioned and expressed disappointment on the decision, saying the nomination and its acceptance have “certainly shaken the confidence of the common man” and “will raise a lot of doubt about the independence of the judiciary”.
Justice Lokur had told The Indian Express: “There has been speculation for sometime now about what honorific would Justice Gogoi get. So, in that sense the nomination is not surprising, but what is surprising is that it came so soon. This redefines the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Has the last bastion fallen?”
Justice Patnaik said: “In my opinion, a former CJI or even a judge of the Supreme Court should not accept nomination to Rajya Sabha or even contest for Rajya Sabha. Such nomination or contest will raise a lot of doubt about the independence of judiciary.”
Justice Kurian Joseph, a former colleague of Justice Gogoi, said he was “surprised” to see how the latter had “compromised the noble principles on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary”.
Justice Chelameswar, quoting John Adams, the second President of the United States, said: “There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Gogoi was nominated four months after his retirement on November 17, 2019. While he was CJI, a woman employee of the Supreme Court filed sexual harassment allegations against him — he was cleared of the charge by an in-house panel before he demitted office.
He is only the second CJI to become a member of the Upper House. Former CJI Ranganath Misra was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the Congress and served from 1998 to 2004.
During his tenure as CJI, he delivered several important verdicts including the Ayodhya title dispute, which was awarded to parties in favour of building a Ram temple on the site where the Babri Masjid stood before its demolition in December 1992.
A bench headed by Gogoi had declined to order a probe into alleged irregularities in India’s Rafale aircraft deal with France. This was a massive respite to the Modi government.
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