Former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi
Former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi

Rajya Sabha membership a call to “service”, asserts ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi; Justice (retd.) AK Patnaik says “a judge should retire gracefully”

Bar & Bench

Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice (retd.) AK Patnaik has registered strong criticism to the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi’s appointment as a Rajya Sabha member post his retirement from judicial service, commenting that “a judge should retire gracefully.”

Patnaik has been quoted by The National Herald as saying,

“I don’t understand why the former CJI should accept the nomination to the Rajya Sabha or even get elected. He has no role there. Neither should a President appoint a former CJI to the RS and nor should he accept it. That is how institutions are maintained. A judge should retire gracefully.”

Justice (retd.) AK Patnaik

Adding to concerns raised that Gogoi’s recent appointment to Parliament has the effect of diluting the separation of state powers and the independence of the judicial, Patnaik further said,

We have to maintain the independence and purity of institutions. One cannot mix these things. If the government wanted someone from the legal field, there are many others who could have contributed; there are several lawyers and legal academicians who should have been considered…"

Justice (retd.) AK Patnaik
Justice (retd.) AK Patnaik

He added,

"He (Gogoi) should have worked out his career earlier if he had wanted to be a politician. Rajya Sabha members have a great role to play, but judiciary has its own role.”
Justice (retd.) AK Patnaik

Justice (retd.) Patnaik was earlier appointed to head a probe into whether there was a larger conspiracy to frame Gogoi while he was still the Chief Justice of India, after allegations arose that Gogoi had sexually harassed a junior Supreme Court employee in October 2018.

Gogoi was later cleared of the sexual harassment allegations by an in-house inquiry panel, shortly after the employee withdrew from the proceedings. The employee was reportedly later reinstated back to service, months after Gogoi retired from the office of Supreme Court Chief Justice.

His recent nomination to the Rajya Sabha has also drawn criticism from other judges as well, including former Supreme Court judges, Kurian Joseph, Madan Lokur and Markandey Katju and High Court Chief Justice, AP Shah. Speaking to Times Now in a recent interview, however, Gogoi hit back commenting,

“(Justice Katju) - I think he is irrelevant, ignore him. Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Madan Lokur, who were my good friends - they have their own problems; failed ambitions. As far as Justice AP Shah is concerned - the 'champion of independent judiciary' - it is a matter of record, there are three allegations against, him, for which his name was not recommended for Supreme Court ... Today, along with Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur, he defends the independence of judiciary? Nothing more I would like to add… These are matters of record. Apply under RTI, you will get everything.”

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi

Justice (retd.) Gogoi seen with Justices (retd.) Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph at an event conducted on the day of his retirement from the Supreme Court
Justice (retd.) Gogoi seen with Justices (retd.) Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph at an event conducted on the day of his retirement from the Supreme Court

Gogoi added,

As far as ‘failed ambitions’ are concerned, that is a matter of perception - like the perception of Justice Kurian and Justice Lokur that my accepting the nomination is the downfall of the judiciary. These are perceptions. So far as AP Shah is concerned, it’s a matter of record.

Further, he also justified his nomination, asserting that it should not be considered a “post-retirement package”, but rather that is was a matter of service. He said,

“Is the nomination to the Rajya Sabha a post retirement employment? I’m really sorry, this is not correct. What are these values? Where are these ideas coming from? You attend sessions 60 days in a year... your package is less or equivalent to the post retirement package of a CJI. You get accommodation that is four stages below what you got as a CJI - and then you call it a post retirement package and a benefit conferred for judgments written by the Chief Justice of India? This is a view that only the enemies of this country can take.”

Addressing allegations that the nomination was a matter of quid pro quo, the judge also said,

How (does) the judgments or the position that I have held until 18th of November have anything to do with the nomination to the Rajya Sabha.. what Is the connection between the two? I have completed the two, I have delivered my judgements, my judgments were unanimous - there were other 3-5 judges on the Bench - they agreed, it was a common order. I completed my tenure, went into retirement. The president recalled me from my retirement, required my services for 60 days in a year in the Rajya Sabha."

"I read the Constituent Assembly debates on Article 80 and I found that this is really a call for service to enlighten and elevate the debates on my area of specialisation. That’s all."

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi

He went on to comment, inter alia,

"Is it some kind of post retirement package? If it had been, would I have settled for membership of the Rajya Sabha? C’mon ... Give your former Chief Justice of India a better sense of proportion.”
Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi

Adding to the criticism against former CJI Gogoi, former Chief Justice of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Justice BA Khan said that the nomination,

"casts a shadow on the independence of the judiciary and poses a threat to the scheme of separation of powers under the Constitution."

Justice Khan went on to say,

"Mr Gogoi also says that though he deprecated post retirement assignments given to retired judges, it does not apply to him because being nominated as a Rajya Sabha members was not a regular post retirement employment.

This part of Mr Gogoi’s argument would have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The issue is not whether a Rajya Sabha seat is a regular employment or not. It is immaterial whether Mr Gogoi gets more or less salary as a member of Rajya Sabha. The fact is that he gets a six-year term entitling him to a regular salary, allowances, free air and rail travel, residential accommodation in Lutyens Delhi etc.”

Justice BA Khan
Justice BA Khan

He also reacted strongly to Gogoi's criticism of former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah.

"Mr Gogoi’s washing of dirty linen against Justice AP Shah is unethical and violates his oath of secrecy. It does not behove a former CJI to go public with confidential records of a former state Chief Justice...if he is permitted to go unbridled then one can legitimately ask several questions on the alleged sexual harassment charges against him, more particularly who passed the order of reinstatement of the lady staffer dismissed from service, in violation of all laws and norms of justice.

Mr Gogoi should put up with dissent sportingly.”

To ensure that such controversies do not arise in the future, Justice Khan suggested,

"A law would have to enacted banning Chief Justices and judges of the Supreme Court from accepting any post retirement engagement/job/assignment offered by the government to preserve and safeguard the rule of law and independence the judiciary as a custodian of the Constitution."

Justice BA Khan

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