The Indian Judicial System or the Judiciary has always been the Supreme authority in the Indian Society above the Executive & the Legislature & thus, the responsibility of bringing up the burden of Justice comes onto the Judicial System. The people of our country ostensibly continue to have faith in our judges and the justice delivery system and if they don’t, there would be a situation of chaos. But unfortunately to the dilemma, the faith on the Judiciary has been shaken by events of the last couple of years. The Judges and the Supreme Court who were both considered Synonymous to Gods have been corrupted and drowned in the worldly pleasures of the treacherous society. Thus, leading a great deal of damage not only psychologically but also in the long run.
As we all are aware of the fact that ‘Power corrupts man and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. In the identical custom it is seen that Power taints the integrity of the judiciary leading to a kink which not only has shaken the roots of the Judicial System but has also put it into a state of interrogation. Fundamentally, the Supreme Court though being the higher most judicial body has seen many ironical Judgements which nonetheless do nothing just bring-forth the fact: “Supreme Court Being Consistent in Being Inconsistent”.
This research paper deals fundamentally in and around the Former Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the Judgements made by him & the decisions taken that brought into query the reliability of the Judiciary & most importantly the Supreme Court of India through which the naked travesty of justice was being perpetrated. The instances portraying the ironies of the Judicial crunch, can also be stated as “the great drama in the Indian judiciary where actors and roles change frequently but the script however problematic it is, remains consistent”. The itemized concept can be particularized with the disparagement against the Former Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi who himself being the paragon of justice has given few enormous blows onto the backbone of the Justice as well as to the Indian Judicial System.
In January 2018, four senior judges of the Supreme Court – Justice Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph brought forth a point of notion concluding that India’s democracy was in peril. They held an unprecedented press conference irrespective of the fact that the judges should not ethically interact with the media in order to foil the foundation of a belief on a definite topic by the warped statements of the media.
The bent on therein of the press conference was of charging the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra of violating conventions and allowing interference from the executive. Their remedy to the deteriorating & jeopardised situation of the democracy as well as the Supreme Court was the sunlight of public scrutiny but as it is known “The foretaste of supremacy is analogous to the sight of descent”. When Justice Misra retired, his job went to one of the four dissenting judges. With no fact to the surprising bent on, expectations ran high as equal to the seventh sky of a clean-up that would restore the Supreme Court’s majesty and independence. But as it is said “the further one ponders’ to materialism of change the lesser it actually transpires”.
The Superseding Hullabaloo:
Just three months into Justice Gogoi’s tenure, there was a sense of Deja vu. His functioning as the master of the roster and as the head of the collegium, appointing judges to the higher courts drew severe criticism for the actions which were being performed. His arrangements were no diverse than his predecessor’s. Gogoi’s detractors pointed out making everyone wonder what that momentous press conference really accomplished.
Transitorily, the episodes then continue at a quicker pace than they could ever be anticipated to be. The collegium’s imperviousness soon engrossed to the attention of all.
Justice KM Joseph’s elevation to the Supreme Court was resisted by the Centre, almost everyone in the judiciary felt the collegium must put its foot down and reiterate its decision. Gogoi was a member of the collegium. It rightly decided to stick to the decision to elevate Joseph, although it gave in to the government on the issue of his seniority. The former Chief Justice Misra was blamed for ceding ground on Joseph’s seniority. Then the questions were raised on why the collegium felt it necessary to club his reiteration with a resolution to elevate two other judges, thereby giving the government the opportunity to make Joseph the junior-most of them. It was then considered as transgression but then again, the question still prevailed that If that was a transgression, what happened when even severe event took place. A new collegium under Gogoi decided to review a recommendation made in December to fill two vacancies in the apex court with Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, chief justices of Delhi and Rajasthan High Courts respectively.
In a resolution on January 10, the collegium said: “The then Collegium on 12th December, 2018 took certain decisions. However, the required consultation could not be undertaken and completed as the winter vacation of the Court intervened. By the time the Court re-opened, the composition of the Collegium underwent a change. After extensive deliberations on 5th & 6th January, 2019, the newly constituted Collegium deemed it appropriate to have a fresh look at the matter and also to consider the proposals in the light of the additional material that became available.”
This meant instead of Justice Menon and Justice Nandrajog, the collegium decided to elevate Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, a judge of the Delhi High Court. Inquisitively, the December decision was never made public. So opaque is the collegium’s functioning the public has no idea about the “additional material” that led to the revocation of the December decision. What was so serious in this material that made the collegium rethink its decision to elevate two High Court chief justices? It was a drastic measure given that four of the five judges who made up the collegium in December continue in their positions. What compelled them to overturn their own decision from just about a month ago?
Another problem was that the January 10 resolution claimed the collegium took into account the seniority of High Court judges as well as their merit and suitability for elevation before making its selection. Yet, at least 30 judges were superseded to appoint Justice Khanna, who could now become the chief justice in 2024 after Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. The irony is that Khanna’s uncle, Justice H.R. Khanna, resigned from the Supreme Court in 1976 after he was superseded by the Indira Gandhi government.
As former Delhi High Court judge, Justice Kailash Ghambir noted in a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, the lack of any information about what changed the collegium’s mind has put a question mark on the reputation of 30 judges who have been superseded. The collegium has also not offered any reason as to why its elevated Justice Maheshwari even though it had superseded him in November. These decisions caused a rift in the Supreme Court itself. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul already wrote to Justice Gogoi expressing concerns about the seniority principle not being followed in the current round of elevations. Interestingly, the Centre accepted the recommendations with alacrity. It had stalled Joseph’s elevation last year citing seniority, but took no issue with Justice Khanna getting a seat on the Supreme Court. The President confirmed the appointment of Justice Khanna and Justice Maheshwari, just six days after the collegium recommended them.
The Fangled or The Tangled Ayodhya Bench:
The irony to the work of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi doesn’t take a pause there, after these superseding issues, the famous Ayodhya case comes into the frame that handed over almost the entire Supreme Court to the political executive, giving up its solemn duty of protecting the rights of the people but Justice Gogoi’s instead of protecting rights of the people gave a controversial decisions of changing the bench that was hearing the Ayodhya dispute.
In January, The Supreme Court registry put out a statement that a five-judge bench would take over the case. Apart from Gogoi, the new bench comprised of Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice U.U. Lalit and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, all of whom were in line to become chief justices. Until September, this case was heard by a three-judge bench comprising Justice Misra, Justices Ashok Bhushan and Justice Abdul Nazeer. That bench, by refusing to send a 1994 judgement for review to a larger bench, had indicated that appeals against the title suit would be placed before a three-judge bench again for final hearing.
“Order VI rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 prescribes the minimum numerical strength of the Bench and it is always open for the Hon’ble Chief Justice to decide, having regard to the various relevant facts and circumstances, which cannot be exhaustively laid down, to constitute Benches of such strength that the Hon’ble the Chief Justice deems it proper. This is how the present bench of five Judges has been constituted which is, in no way, contrary to what has been laid down by the Three Judges Bench in the aforesaid judgment and order dated 27th September, 2018.” - Justice Gogoi
Justice Gogoi had essentially used his powers as the master of the roster again to constitute a larger bench, although no constitutional question was being decided to necessitate it. The new bench also did not have the two judges of the previous bench – Justice Bhushan and Justice Nazeer. Justice Misra had retired in October. During the proceedings on January 10, Justice Lalit recused after it was pointed out that he had appeared as a lawyer in a matter connected to the Ayodhya controversy in 1997. Given the nature of the bench, which comprised of the judges who would be chief justices in the future, there was a strong chance that Justice Khanna could take the place of Justice Lalit when the case comes up for hearing on January 29.
History Strikes Back:
Justice Ranjan Gogoi objected to how Dipak Misra ran Supreme Court as Chief Justice of India. Then he was himself acting correspondingly, Justice Gogoi questioned Justice Misra’s functioning at last year’s press conference, yet one can argue that he has repeated some of Misra’s mistakes. First, there was no necessity for a five-judge bench in the Ayodhya case as no one had requested it after the court in September decided not to review the Ismail Faruqui judgement of 1994, in which it held in a particular context that mosques are not essential to Islam.
Justice Gogoi justified his actions by invoking the administrative powers of the chief justice as the master of the roster. In November 2017, when Justice Misra hurriedly formed a five-judge bench to nullify the order of another bench, he was accused of misusing his powers of the chief justice. While the two matters are not the same in terms of their content, the fact that chief justices alter benches at will continues to be a problem. No reason has been provided as to why Justice Nazeer, the only Muslim judge on the three-judge Ayodhya case bench, or Justice Bhushan have not been included in the new five-judge bench. Given the context and controversies of Justice Misra’s tenure, the prerogative of the chief justice to form benches is not a satisfactory answer. As far as the decision to supersede 30 judges to elevate Justice Khanna goes, Justice Gogoi has persisted with opaqueness in the functioning of the collegium. And thus, the collegium remains as opaque as ever while the chief justice continues to exercise his powers as the master of the roster at will.
Rafael Review and Contempt Proceedings Against Rahul Gandhi:
There was a prudent question raised against the government on the Rafael deal but the bench headed by Justice Gogoi had given a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government over allegations of irregularities in India’s purchase of 36 Rafael jets from France’s Dassault Aviation. In doing so, the court dismissed a batch of review petitions seeking a probe into the purchase. The bench had also initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for wrongly attributing his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” remark, aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the Rafael case, to the apex court. These charges were later dropped, and Mr. Rahul Gandhi was asked to be careful in the future.
The incident just quoted again draws the attention when Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had been nominated to the Rajya Sabha by President Ram Nath Kovind just four months after his retirement. The nomination had reignited the debate on post-retirement benefits for judges.
Many critics of Gogoi’s nomination as an MP also noted that, in 2018, he had himself remarked that post-retirement appointment of judges in tribunals was a scar on the idea of judicial independence but even if the same comment is ignored, still some inferences can be drawn clearly on how the Chief Justice of India who was deemed to be the paragon of Justice, nullifies his duties of imparting justice & instead tries to portray himself being the paragon of loyalty and that too towards the executive in order to just secure safety and not justice towards them.
Abhijit Iyer Mitra’s Case: “Bail or Jail”:
The rejecting of the bail plea of columnist Abhijit Iyer Mitra, which surely was a fit case for the bail to be granted, in which Justice Gogoi made a flippant and cruel remark: “The safest place for you is jail”.
Mitra was arrested by Orissa Police with the assistance of Delhi Police on September 20 in Delhi on charges of outraging religious sentiments of the people. He was, however, granted bail by a local court. The incident was that during his visit to Orissa, Sun Temple on September 16, Mitra had posted a satirical video and allegedly made derogatory comments over the state’s food and culture. The writer has been summoned to appear before Orissa Assembly’s three-member privileges committee on October 11. However, he has to secure bail from Cuttack High Court but Ironically, Mitra had approached the apex court for bail citing on-going lawyers' strike in Cuttack High Court.
Responding to Mitra’s counsel’s arguments that his life is in danger the newly sworn in Chief Justice of India said, “If you say you face threats, the safest place for you would be in jail. Your life will be secure. You have incited religious feelings.”
The lawyers from the side of Mitra were themselves shocked getting such a tough response from the court and they said “Orissa has got justice from a Chief Justice of India who hails from Assam. Perhaps, former Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Mishra, who hailed from our state, would not have taken such a decision”.
Though all what Mitra did in which was against the sentiments of the Hindu community but the statements which came from the Chief Justice of India were to some extent against the dignity of the post upheld by Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The Former CBI director Case: “The Head Skips to Head”:
The shoddy manner in which former CBI director Alok Verma was treated by the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Gogoi in which he was not the only member of the bench, thus questions the mute nature of the fellow members of the bench as well.
In this scenario, the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has dropped out of the high-powered selection panel that is to decide Alok Verma’s case as he was a member of the Supreme Court bench that reinstated Verma as CBI director on Tuesday. Instead, the CJI nominated Justice A.K. Sikri to replace him on the panel, which also includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the leader of the largest opposition party – “Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge”. The panel beyond deciding Verma’s future, was also expected to deliberate and select the next CBI chief to succeed Verma as he is due to retire on January 31.
After 77 days of forced leave, Verma finally resumed office as CBI director. Amidst reports that Modi was keen to convene the panel’s meeting as early as Wednesday evening, Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan tweeted his apprehensions over the rush, saying “the government wanted to forestall any action by the CBI director on a complaint alleging corruption in the Rafael deal”.
A much-criticized late night order on October 23, 2018, had sent Verma and his deputy special director Rakesh Asthana booked by the agency on corruption charges, into exile in a first of its kind move by the government in the agency’s history. In sending Verma on leave, the government overlooked the immunity given to the CBI director by the Supreme Court, ensuring a two-year minimum tenure to protect the incumbent from any political interference.
The government tried to justify its decision, saying it became necessary amid an unprecedented feud between the two senior-most officials of the agency who had levelled charges of corruption on each other, an argument rejected by the apex court. The government gave charge to then joint director M. Nageswara Rao who was later promoted as additional director in the agency.
Verma challenged the move in the Supreme Court which clipped the powers of Rao as director in-charge and barred him from taking any major policy decision till a final order comes from it. In its order, the Supreme Court set aside Verma’s forced leave but restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over. In the absence of any clear definition of “major policy” decisions, the grey area exists as to what extent Verma’s powers will be limited.
Lady Clerk’s Sexual Molestation Allegation:
In the case of a lady clerk who alleged, she was sexually molested by Justice Gogoi, the chief justice himself sat on a three-member bench constituted by him to hear the matter, along with two other judges of the Supreme Court which at the first instance creates the paradox that how can a man be a judge in his own case & that too the lady was not informed about the proceeding of her plea the constitution of that bench was much criticized.
In this case a 35-year-old woman who used to work as a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court of India wrote to 22 judges of the court on April 19, alleging that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and 11, 2018.
She mentioned in her letter that: “He hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and did not let go,” she wrote in an affidavit sent with a covering letter. “He told me ‘hold me’, he did not let go of me despite the fact that I froze and tried to get out of his embrace by stiffening and moving my body away.”
In response to questions sent to the Chief Justice of India, the Secretary General of the Supreme Court of India sent an email denying the allegations, calling them “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous”. “It’s is also very possible that there are mischievous forces behind all this, with an intention to malign the institution,” the email said.
The woman said after she rebuffed the Chief Justice of India, she was moved out of his residence office, where she had been posted in August 2018. Two months later, on December 21, she was dismissed from service. One of the three grounds for dismissal, as detailed in the inquiry report, was that she had taken casual leave for one day without approval.
The harassment did not stop at her dismissal, the former junior court assistant alleged in the sworn affidavit. It engulfed her entire family, she claimed. Her husband and brother-in-law, both of whom are head constables in Delhi Police, were suspended on December 28, 2018, for a criminal case involving a colony dispute dating back to 2012 On January 11, a police officer accompanied the woman to the Chief Justice’s residence where, she alleged, Justice Gogoi’s wife asked her to apologize by prostrating on the floor and rubbing her nose at her feet. She followed the instructions, even though she did not know what the apology was for. Despite the apology, her disabled brother-in-law, who had been appointed to the Supreme Court on October 9 as a temporary junior court attendant under the discretionary quota of the Chief Justice of India, was served a termination letter on January 14. No reasons were given.
On March 9, the former junior court assistant and her husband were at their ancestral village in Rajasthan, when a team of Delhi police showed up, wanting to take them back for questioning in a case based on a cheating complaint against her. The allegation was that she had taken Rs 50,000 from the complainant in 2017, promising to secure a job for him in the Supreme Court, but had failed to keep her word.
The next day, not only were she and her husband detained at the Tilak Marg police station, so were her brother-in-law, his wife and a male relative, the affidavit stated. The affidavit alleges that they were subjected to verbal and physical abuse, their hands and legs were cuffed, and they were denied food and water for nearly 24 hours. that had been mutually resolved.
Video footage showing the woman’s husband in handcuffs at the police station has been sent to the Supreme Court judges, as part of the annexures to the affidavit. It includes a video recording that shows the couple in conversation with the Station House Officer of the Tilak Marg police station on January 11, 2019. He assured them that their harassment would stop now that she had apologized to Justice Gogoi’s wife. When the police officer asked what the matter was, the husband briefly recounted the sexual harassment incident. The woman choked several times during the conversation. “Sir, my entire family is in tension,” she told the police officer in Hindi. “I feel so guilty. On one side, you have made no mistake, on the other side, you are being punished so much…”
The police officer sympathetically asked her in Hindi, “When a big man makes a mistake, will he admit it?”
She responded: “It is quite natural, sir, he won’t.”
“So, what will be the result?” he asked.
“We will have to suffer,” she said.
In the affidavit, the former junior court assistant wrote, “I have been victimized for resisting and refusing the unwanted sexual advances of the CJI and my entire family has also been victimized and harassed due to that.”
She continued: “It is only when the victimization has reached unbearable proportions when me and my family were taken into police custody and tortured, and now there is imminent danger to my life that I am compelled to speak the whole truth, in order to save myself and my family.”
“By this letter, I am requesting the Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court to constitute a special enquiry committee of senior retired judges of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to enquire into those charges of sexual harassment and consequent victimization.”
These were not only the only end to her miseries of life, these all continued and the lady was made to suffer with her family as well, These all come up with just a simple statement that is the Chief Justice of India is the root cause of such a huge messy conspiracy how could the nation hope that the justice will be served.
Not Just You but We Too, DISAPPROVE:
There are instances where some Senior Judges as well as the Advocates have lashed out Justice Gogoi’s actions and that too in a very severe manner:
Retired Chief Justice Markandey Katju with his scathing attacks, lashed out on the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi after his appointment in Rajya Sabha. Katju on twitter responded fiercely calling him a ‘sexual pervert’.
“I have been a lawyer for 20 years and a judge for another 20. I have known many good judges and many bad judges. But I have never known any judge in the Indian judiciary as shameless and disgraceful as this sexual pervert Ranjan Gogoi. There was hardly any vice which was not in this man and now this rascal and rogue is going to adorn the Indian Parliament.”- Justice Katju
Earlier in January, he called Justice Gogoi ‘Rascal and Rogue’ on the decision of Supreme Court reinstating the woman, who had been dismissed after alleging Gogoi for sexual misconduct. The case caught the spark when the lady wrote an application to 22 judges of the Supreme Court addressing the misconduct faced by her from Ranjan Gogoi and soon after she filed a complaint, her husband and brother in law who were posted in Delhi Police were suspended. Reacting to the situation, a one-man panel of A.K. Patnaik was appointed to probe the allegations of sexual misconduct on Justice Gogoi. There were also allegations which informed secretly that Patnaik was offered Rs.1.5 Crore to prove the accusations as false.
Then again Justice Kurian Joseph also criticized the decision of the Supreme Court and reiterated that Gogoi has hampered the ‘Nobel principles of Judiciary’. Justice Shah, who was also a former chairman of Law Commission of India in an interview said that the appointment of Ranjan Gogoi in Rajya Sabha clearly a ‘quid pro quo’. Justice Sodhi in an interview said that ‘A judge shall not accept post retirement jobs at all as it hampers the integrity of Judiciary’.
Justice Katju in the recent past lashed out Justice Gogoi saying “CJI Gogoi was blot on Judiciary, but other SC judges equally culpable”. He in an interview also stated the following points:
- When former Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra misbehaved in the allocating cases in the Supreme Court, Justice Gogoi protested and organized an open press conference for disgracing Justice Deepak Misra. However, when Gogoi did the misconduct, no voice of dissent appeared.
- In the shameful MISA Act (ADM Jabalpur vs Shivakant Shukla), there stood a strong dissenting voice of Justice H.R. Khanna, whereas during the shameful judgment of Ayodhya, nobody thought about justice and the judgment was unanimous. Gogoi was a Chief Justice, but all the judges hold equal power and responsibility towards the nation and why did their conscience allow them to prevail the injustice.
- There were five Supreme Court justices on the Ayodhya bench. It was of course expected of Gogoi to have done as he was told by the Union government. But how could the other four justices have agreed to such an outrageous verdict? Where were the inner voices and scruples of these four justices? Or had the justices handed them over to Gogoi?
- Rejecting the bail plea of columnist Abhijit Iyer Mitra in October 2018.
- The low-grade manner in which former CBI director Alok Verma was treated by the Supreme Court bench.
According to Justice Katju, why everyone is acting like Bheeshma Pitamah, watching the ‘Cheer-Haran’?
Justice Katju retired in 2011 from Supreme Court. Gogoi retired on November 16, a week after pronouncing the verdict in the Ayodhya Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid case.
All these incidents could have been blamed on the Chief Justice of India in being incompetent and unworthy but the other Judges in the Supreme Court mute, just as quoted by Justice Katju like Bheeshma Pitamah, seeing the cheer haran of the Supreme Court, makes them guilty and culpable to the same extent & fetching again the point that makes the Credibility of Judiciary as well as the Supreme Court as an institution into query and unless we are salvaged from the quicksand of this Judicial Nomenclature through swift counteractive measures, all of us will find ourselves in the sinkhole and more devastated with these “Tughlaqs” heading the higher most authorities that is the Indian Judicial System, shattering the basic of backbone of Justice in India.