Former Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph has reacted strongly to the nomination of former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi as member of the Rajya Sabha, saying that he has "compromised the noble principles" of the independence and impartiality of judiciary, PTI reported on Tuesday, 17 March.
In a gazette notification on Monday, President Ram Nath Kovind nominated Gogoi to the Council of States to fill the vacancy caused due to the retirement of one of the nominated members.
There have been debates in the political circles and other quarters on the nomination of Gogoi, who had retired in November last year as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) after serving for about 13 months.
"According to me, the acceptance of nomination as member of Rajya Sabha by a former CJI, has certainly shaken the confidence of the common man on the independence of judiciary, which is also one of the basic structures of the Constitution of India," retired Justice Joseph said.
Justice Joseph had once taken part in an unprecedented presser along with Gogoi, Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur (all retired) on 12 January 2018 on the functioning of the apex court.
Recalling the statement made by Justice Gogoi in the presser, he expressed surprise as to how the ex-CJI accepted the Rajya Sabha nomination.
"I am surprised as to how Justice Ranjan Gogoi who once exhibited such courage of conviction to uphold the independence of judiciary, has compromised the noble principles on the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary," Justice Joseph said, according to PTI.
Former Judges, Senior Lawyers React Sharply
Many senior politicians and lawyers have also sharply reacted to the news of his nomination. Speaking to The Indian Express, Justice (retired) Madan B Lokur said:
“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 (retired) Madan B Lokur
Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A P Shah and retired HC judge R S Sodhi also reacted sharply to Gogoi's nomination by the government.
"I have always been of the opinion that judges should not accept post-retirement jobs at all. Judges must be strong enough to resist any temptation of compromising their independence that is led by anyone in authority that can demean the independence of judiciary," Justice Sodhi said, according to PTI.
"The solution is your own integrity. A judge should never retire. There is no question of accepting post retiral benefit," he added.
According to PTI, Justice Shah, who is also former chairman of the Law Commission of India, reportedly said in an interview to a website that the nomination was a "clear quid pro quo".
Another senior advocate, Dushyant Dave, told The Wire, “This is totally disgusting, a clear reward in quid pro quo. The semblance of independence of the judiciary is totally destroyed.”
Lawyer Gautam Bhatia tweeted saying, "It took a while for what was implicit to become evident, but the independent judiciary is now, officially, dead."
While the Centre's decison to nominate Gogoi is receiving criticism from a section of lawyers, some are also pointing out that this is not the first time that a former CJI is becoming a member of Rajya Sabha. Ex-CJI Justice Ranganath Mishra was elected to the Rajya Sabha on Congress ticket in 1998 seven years after his retirement.
However, Live Law reported that the Centre nominating a former CJI under Article 80(3) of the Constitution, soon after his retirement, is unprecedented.
Opposition Slams Former CJI's Nomination to Rajya Sabha
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday said Gogoi’s will erode people''s trust in judicial system and caste a doubt upon fairness of judgements delivered.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi considered the advice of his late law minister before nominating Gogoi.
"Justice Lokur rightly summarises it, 'Has the last bastion fallen?'," Surjewala said in another tweet.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibar compared former CJI Gogoi to former justice HR Khanna in a tweet.
NCP, CPI(M) Slam Modi Govt
Reacting to Gogoi's nomination, CP(M) leader, Sitaram Yechury tweeted saying:
“Shri Ranjan Gogoi had himself said last year that ‘There’s a strong viewpoint that post-retirement appointments is a scar on independence of Judiciary’. What must one make of a govt that does this, after appointing another ex-Chief Justice as the governor of a state?”CP(M) leader, Sitaram Yechury
The CPI(M) also hit out at the government over the nomination, saying that it was a "brazen" effort to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
"By nominating the former CJI to the Rajya Sabha, the Modi government is brazenly undermining the independence of the judiciary and subverting the separation of powers between the organs of the State, which is an inviolable principle enshrined in our constitutional scheme," the Left party said in a statement, according to PTI.
"The Modi government should not have nominated Justice (retired) Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha," NCP Spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said, according to PTI.
He said the people of the country look upon the judiciary for dispensation of justice "without fear and favour".
“This is an essential and integral feature of our constitution. The government should refrain from appointing to the Rajya Sabha judges who have handled sensitive cases,” Tapase said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar cited Gogoi's remarks against post-retirement appointments last year to take a swipe at the latter.
Pawar said institutions are being attacked and the situation for the judiciary was no different.
"I read in a newspaper that a former CJI had observed, 'There is a strong viewpoint that post-retirement appointment is a scar on independence of judiciary'. This statement was by Justice Gogoi. Now we read that his way to Parliament has been cleared," Pawar said, according to PTI.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, on Monday, asked, "Is it 'quid pro quo'?How will people have faith in the Independence of judges?"
Former senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha took to Twitter and said, "I hope ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi would have the good sense to say 'NO' to the offer of Rajya Sabha seat to him. Otherwise he will cause incalculable damage to the reputation of the judiciary."
(With inputs from PTI, NDTV, Indian Express, The Wire and Live Law.)