“This redefines the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary”: Ranjan Gogoi’s former SC colleague, Justice (retired) Madan B Lokur, on Rajya Sabha nomination


Justice (retired) Madan B Lokur, who was one of the four Supreme Court judges, who held the extraordinary press conference in January 2018, has said that former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi accepting the Rajya Sabha nomination from the BJP government will redefine ‘the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary.’

Justice Lokur sitting rnext to Gogoi (extreme right)

Justice Lokur also said that he was not surprised by the government reward but ‘what is surprising is that it came so soon.’ “There has been speculation for some time 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?” Indian Express quoted Justice Lokur as saying.

Gogoi, for his part, has said that he will speak about his Rajya Sabha nomination only after taking the oath. “I will go to Delhi probably tomorrow. Let me first take oath, then I will speak in detail to the media why I accepted this,” he was quoted by NDTV.

Justices Gogoi, Lokur, J Chelameswar and Kurian Joseph had held an extraordinary press conference in January 2018 to raise serious questions on the independence of the judiciary under the then Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra.

Justices Chelameswar and Joseph have not reacted to Gogoi accepting the government reward allegedly in exchange of delivering favourable judgments in a number of high-profile cases. No sooner did President Ram Nath Kovind issue the notification approving Gogoi’s name for the Rajya Sabha, journalists and scholars began to raise questions on the alleged quid-pro-quo deal.

It was the Ranjan Gogoi-led Supreme Court Bench that delivered a controversial verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute. What baffled many constitutional experts was the manner in which the Supreme Court Bench led by Gogoi had awarded the land to Hindus despite concluding that there was no evidence of the Babri Mosque being constructed by demolishing a temple. The Bench had also concluded that there was enough evidence of Muslim prayers being held at the Babri Mosque until Hindu fanatics demolished the 16th-century mosque on 6 December 1992. The Bench had also gone on to declare the demolition of the Babri Mosque an illegal act.

Gogoi, who retired as Chief Justice of India in November last year,  left many disappointed with his refusal to act on matters of public interest. One such example was the gross violation of human rights in Kashmir, which faced a brutal lockdown since 5 August after the government announced the abrogation of Article 370. He was accused of willfully ignoring the petitions filed seeking the top court’s intervention.

Gogoi was also accused of surrendering the judiciary’s independence when the Collegium led by him did not protest the Centre’s Narendra Modi government’s decision to block the promotion of Justice Akil Kureshi. The Collegium had recommended his name to be appointed as the next Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court. But the Centre blocked the Collegium’s recommendation. Gogoi did not protest and instead recommended Justice Kureshi’s name for the Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, which is significantly smaller compared to the Madhya Pradesh HC.

Many feel that the Modi government is punishing Justice Kureshi, known to be a very upright judge all through his career, since he had remanded Home Minister Amit Shah, who was then the junior Home Minister of Gujarat, to two days Police Custody in the infamous Sohrabuddin Shaikh murder case.

In 2012, as reported by the Livelaw website, Justice Kureshi had also upheld the decision of the Governor to appoint (Retd) Justice RA Mehta as Lokayukta in Gujarat without consulting the Council of Ministers.