Did Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi Discharge His 'Debt To The Nation'?

Maneka Khanna and Surbhi Dhar
Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a file photo. 

 On 12 January 2018, four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including Justice Ranjan Gogoi, held a historic press conference. The judges informed the nation that the integrity of the Apex Court, and thereby the survival of democracy itself, was in danger and that they were speaking out publicly since their efforts to resolve the issues internally with then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had failed. Poignantly, Justice Gogoi stated that it was a “discharge of a debt to the nation” that motivated them to address the public. 

The press conference and a letter written by the four judges to the then Chief Justice raised concerns regarding the administrative role discharged by the latter in reassignment of cases and finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure relating to the appointment of judges.  Justice Misra’s tenure showed that the seemingly benign administrative power of the Chief Justice to allocate cases had the potential of being abused. Justice Misra’s tenure ended with allegations of him cherry-picking judges to hear politically sensitive cases so as to influence the outcome, and listing cases in a manner that led to him being a judge in his own cause. When Justice Gogoi took over as the Chief Justice of India, there was widespread optimism that the institutional credibility of the SC would be restored since he was one of the four judges who spoke out at that historic press conference expressing concerns about the hallowed institution’s integrity. 

But on April 20 this year, reports emerged that a complaint alleging sexual harassment by Chief Justice Gogoi had been sent on a sworn affidavit along with supporting evidence to all the sitting judges of India’s top court. Despite it being a Saturday, a notice was issued on the SC website stating that a three judge ‘special bench’, which included CJI Gogoi, was being constituted to hold court on that day itself—allegedly on the ‘mentioning’ by the Solicitor General. During...

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