Saturday, April 17, 2021
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Whether Ranjan Gogoi committed Contempt of Court?

When Ranjan Gogoi has spoken truth, some people are asking to drag him to court of law. When an MP criticised him, some wanted to bring privileges motion against her. Even during the Corona pandemic 60 lakh people approached the courts seeking justice. That is the credibility of the institution in spite of efforts by some to blame it. A public spirited person sought the consent of the Attorney General of India K K Venugopal to prosecute Ranjan Gogoi for contempt of court, which he refused on February 26.

When the productivity of all institutions and organizations went down in 2020 due to the pandemic, the judiciary “succeeded” in adding its case arrears, he said with a tone of sarcasm. He said 60 lakh cases were added at the subordinate level, 3 lakhs in High Court and nearly seven thousand in the Supreme Court in the pandemic affected year.

It is very interesting that lakhs of people look at the court as a final resort of justice, but the former Chief Justice asks: “Who goes to the court? You go to the court and regret. It is those who can afford to take chances, like the big corporates, who approach the courts…”If you go to the Court, you would be washing your dirty linen in the Court. You will not get a verdict”.

Also Read: Kudos to Courts for ‘exposing wounded vanity of the Government’.

It is the gospel truth of the present situation. It came out from none other than former Chief Justice of India. Mr Justice Ranjan Gogoi was the just before the present CJI. He is now people’s representative in Rajya Sabha, nominated by the President on the recommendation of the present Government in March 2020 after his retirement in November 2019,

He has passed serious remarks against judiciary recently. He called the judiciary of the country was ‘ramshackled’. He also said that even he won’t go to the courts. This was in reply to a question by an anchor whether he would take legal action against Mahua Moitra MP over her statements in the Lok Sabha that Gogoi discredited the judiciary by deciding the sexual harassment allegations against him.

Without naming Moitra, Gogoi said that the ‘lady politician’ did not have her facts right as he did not decide the case against him. Gogoi said that he had handed over the file to Justice Bobde, who was the next senior judge then, who in turn constituted the enquiry panel as per the in-house procedure.

Ramshacked judiciary

Gogoi said so many things which are factually correct.  “You want a 5 trillion dollar economy but you have a ramshackled judiciary”.

“The road map is…have the right man for the job. You don’t appoint judges as you appoint officers in the government. To judge is a full time commitment. It is a passion. There are no working hours. It is a 24/7 job. You wake up at 2 o clock in the morning, remember a point, and jot it down. That is how a judge works. How many people understand this?”, he said.

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What is being taught in NJA Bhopal?

He insisted on training of the judges: “When you appoint a judge, train him up. He needs to be constantly reminded…When you go to the National Judicial Academy at Bhopal, what is being taught? Laws of the seas, laws of the oceans…nothing about judicial ethics, nothing about how to write judgments, nothing about how to conduct court proceedings.”

Some more truths were rolling down from former CJ when he was responding about commercial courts system and arbitration, he said:

No investments without a robust system

“System has not worked. If you want a thriving economy, you must have a forum to decide commercial disputes. Nobody is going to invest unless you have a robust system. Where is the mechanism? Commercial Courts Act has brought within its purview every conceivable commercial disputes. But who is applying the law?The same judge doing the normal work.

Speaking about arbitration – the award passed by the CJI is questioned before a district judge. What does the poor fellow do? He sits on it. Then there is an appeal to HC, appeal to SC. So the whole thing of arbitration not going to court not working”.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi has put a heavy burden on brother judges. He called upon them to draw a ‘road map’, he said :

“The efficacy of the system need serious serious consideration so that it becomes a vibrant one”

Not a bargain

Gogoi refuted the allegation that his nomination to the Rajya Sabha was a quid pro quo for delivering judgments favouring the BJP government’s position in Rafale and Ayodhya cases. If there was such a bargain actually, would anyone settle for a Rajya Sabha seat, he asked rhetorically.”

I thought i will do some constructive work in the Rajya Sabha. If I were to look for something, would I look for a Rajya Sabha seat?

Give this much credit to a man who has written these judgments that if he wants to bargain, he will make a good bargain. Give me this much credit. Rajya Sabha is not a good bargain. If there had been a bargain, there would have been something bigger, not the Rajya Sabha seat”, he claimed, adding that this was a “worthless topic”.

When the anchor asked how will he tackle the growing perception that his nomination to the upper house was a return favour, Gogoi made an appeal to his own conscience.

“I don’t have to tackle anything. I have to tackle only my conscience. My conscience is clear. No amount of what other perceive bothers me”.

He added that he has not taken even a single penny from the Parliament and has given in writing that he will not draw any remuneration for his Rajya Sabha term. He complained that the media and critics were not discussing this aspect.

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Judges should not succumb to media attacks

He commented that media outlets and web portals attempted to “cow down” judges and that judges succumbing to such attacks was a “real threat”.

“What is this attack, does a judge or a former judge get cowed down by attacks? Will he ever be able to function if he is afraid of being attacked while in office or after office?”, he added.

When the anchor sought his views about a Supreme Court judge(Justice MR Shah) publicly praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a recent public event, Gogoi replied: “The learned judge should not have made that statement. If he had great admiration for the Prime Minister, it should have remained with him. Beyond that I cannot answer anything”.  However, Gogoi added that the mere fact that such a public praise was made does not indicate ‘quid pro quo’.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar termed these remarks of Ranjan Gogoi about the judiciary as “shocking and “worrisome”. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said in Nashik that Gogoi’s statement should be taken seriously, and added that the former CJI should have explained with “examples from his tenure” as to why he thinks so.

“But the statement made by former Chief Justice of India is a very shocking kind of a statement. Gogoi’s remarks should be taken seriously. There is a precedent that the judiciary shouldn’t be criticised… Had Gogoi explained with examples during his tenure as to why he thinks so, the country would have been enlightened.  But he is a Rajya Sabha member with BJP’s blessings…You have been part of the judiciary for several years and after retirement, you say like this?, he questioned.

Attorney General of India KK Venugopal has refused to give his consent for initiation of contempt proceedings against Former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi for statements made by him during above referred interview with India Today. A request was made by activist Saket Gokhale. While refusing to grant consent, AG Venugopal has acknowledged that some very strong statements were made by Gogoi about the judiciary and the Supreme Court in a recent interview, that reflected his ‘deep frustration with the ills that undoubtedly beset the justice deliver system’.

However, AG Venugopal also stated that everything that was said by Gogoi in the interview in question was for the good of the institution and will not in any manner scandalize the Court or lower its authority in public eyes.

Saket Gokhale had on 23rd February written to AG Venugopal seeking contempt proceedings against Former CJI and current Parliamentarian Ranjan Gogoi for insulting the Supreme Court and scandalizing and attempting to lower its dignity. Gokhale brought to the AG’s attention an interview given by Gogoi during a conclave event organised by the India Today group on 12th February this year.

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Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor of Law at Bennett University

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