Ranjan Gogoi who retires as the 46th Chief Justice of India after a 13-month stint will be remembered for varied and odd reasons. The Jury is out there to decide whether as Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was crystal clear in safeguarding the Independence of the Judiciary or played fiddle in allowing the government to merrily trample upon it.
Ranjan Gogoi was one amongst those four Senior Judges of the Supreme Court who on January 12th last year addressed that very unprecedented first ever press conference mounting a scathing revolt against the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra while listing a litany of problems that they said was afflicting the country’s highest court and warned that it could destroy Indian democracy. Justice Chelameswar, M.K.Lokur and Kurian Joseph have already retired with Ranjan Gogoi being last of that pack of four. Ranjan Gogoi may have revolted against the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra but his very own tenor and demeanor after assuming the Chief Justice’s throne left much to be desired and did surprise many.
In April this year Ranjan Gogoi as Chief Justice was embroiled in very serious charges of alleged moral turpitude with a 35 year old female former staffer of the Supreme Court leveling serious sexual harassment allegations against Ranjan Gogoi. With his own colleague judges conducting a probe into those mind boggling allegations, propriety demanded that Ranjan Gogoi should have volunteered himself to step aside as Chief Justice pending the probe or at least proceeded on leave to ensure that there was no direct or indirect impediment whatsoever to the investigation being conducted by his own fellow subordinate Judges as Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.
Ranjan Gogoi and his wife Rupanjali will now be the first ever to get post retirement complimentary perks at tax payer’s expense by way of the so called “institutional courtesy” by the Gauhati High Court. The facilities would include a chauffeur-driven vehicle and a private secretary for the couple to look after their day-to-day requirements and coordinate with the High Court Registry for any protocol-related requirements. The other facilities to be provided are a grade IV peon, a bungalow peon and a nodal officer of the High Court to coordinate with the private secretary. Why not provide such courtesy to all retiring Judges?
Those who are entrusted as custodians with the solemn duty of faithfully interpreting and upholding the law cannot themselves be above the law or be seen to artfully tweaking it.