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Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi today responded to criticism that post-retirement jobs taken up by judges compromise their independence, by asserting that these are “individual perceptions.”
Gogoi himself had come under fire after news broke of his nomination to the Rajya Sabha following his retirement from the Supreme Court.
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While addressing a question posed over the propriety of such post-retirement engagements, Gogoi said,
“It's an individual perception. So long as you are clear in your own mind, there is no problem…"
The former CJI was speaking on the theme of judicial independence in an webinar hosted by the Confederation of Alumni for National Law Universities (CAN) Foundation, which also featured Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi as a co-speaker.
Gogoi further commented that there are three kinds of retired judges, relevant to the issue at hand. One such category, Gogoi said, were “retired activist judges” who “immediately after retirement say many things not said while in office”, often to do with freedom of speech and the judicial system.
Another category involves judges who do professional independent work including commercial work and arbitration. Finally, there are judges who perform post-retirement engagements.
While this is the case, Gogoi commented,
Referring to the first category of judges he demarcated, Gogoi queried, "Who are the activist judges working with?… Who is giving the platform to them? No questions (are) asked.”
He went on to comment that no questions are raised over whether the comments made by such judges after retirement are tied to the judgments delivered by them during their term in office.
Referring to the second category, he added that similarly, there are retiring judges getting friendly with lawyers doing commercial work.
“How does work flow to a few judges and not the others?” he commented, adding that no questions are asked about this category of judges either.
As far as other post retirement engagements are concerned, Gogoi referred to a 2016 Vidhi Report which found that out of 100, 70 judges had accepted post-retirement engagements.
“Does this mean the independence of judiciary is compromised?” Gogoi asked.
He went on to assert, “If a judge is true to his functions (during his tenure), post-retirement is okay. It depends on individual to individual…”