The best part of being a justice is that his credentials remain unquestionable; be it during service or post retirement. But despite his ‘impeccable’ integrity during service as claimed by opposition parties then, the retired Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to Upper House seems to be revealing a different picture.
The Congress party made a lot of hue and cry when Gogoi was taking-oath in Rajya Sabha with slogans like ‘Shame on you’. Four months after his retirement, Gogoi was nominated by President Ram Nath Kovind to the upper house on March 16 to fill the vacancy arisen after KTS Tulsi completed his term.
The opposition parties are raising storm alleging the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party of quid pro quo for some of Gogoi’s judgments. Gogoi headed Supreme Court benches that heard the Ram Temple issue, Sabarimala shrine and the Rafale fighter jet case besides controversial NRC in Assam. While the opposition went hoarse in cornering the ruling party of ‘managing’ judiciary with post retirement appointment, the Congress itself had created a precedent in past with the appointment of retired CJI Ranganath Misra to upper house in 1998.
Notably, it was justice Misra commission of Inquiry, set by Congress government after 1984 anti-Sikh riots, that gave clean chit to the party in power.
In 2012, BJP senior leader late Arun Jaitley had questioned the Congress government over appointment of retired judges on the plum government jobs, and sought a cooling off period post the retirement. It has been confirmed in past also that many retired judges never shied away from being appointed chairpersons of tribunals, governors.
Though the Ayodhya verdict was pronounced by five judge bench, the nomination of Gogoi has raised questions. Similarly, the bench that heard the Rafael petition had three judges. However, any allegation of quid pro quo is seen as an insult to the judges who delivered that verdict.
Since both congress and BJP have done nominations of retired CJIs, country needs to have a strong mechanism in place to ensure cooling-off period for retired judges before their appointments to tribunals, commissioners and their nomination to upper house.