Protecting constitutional values

Paras Nath Singh

After months of speculations that were not entirely unjustified, Justice Ranjan Gogoi is at last set to adorn judicial firmament as the 46th Chief Justice of India (CJI). The incumbent CJI, Dipak Misra has officially recommended the name of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, as his successor. Finally, this clears the dark clouds of doubt that had surrounded Justice Gogoi’s appointment as the next CJI ever since his participation in the unprecedented January 12, 2018 press conference by the four senior-most justices— in which they had questioned the administrative functioning of the present CJI, Dipak Misra. Justice Gogoi will take over as CJI on October 3, 2018 and will remain in office till November 17, 2019.
In last six years of his tenure as a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Gogoi has dealt with a variety of cases and has some landmark and reformative judgments to his credit. In December 2012, Justice Gogoi dissented along with Justice J Chelameswar, from the majority decision in a petition filed by former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma challenging Pranab Mukherjee’s election as the President. He held that petition deserved regular hearing of the case, while the majority led by then CJI Altamas Kabir held petition did not deserve full and regular hearing and thus was dismissed.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi headed the bench which allowed the publication of pictures of Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, Governor and State Ministers in government advertisement. This decision came on a review petition filed by Centre, and few states, seeking a review of Court’s banning publication of leaders’ photos in advertisement except those of the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India.
In a very unprecedented turn, Justice Markandey Katju (Retd.) was issued contempt of court notice by the bench presided over by Justice Gogoi. Notice was issued for his Facebook post where he used intemperate language against the judges after they did not impose death sentence in Soumya rape case. Later, the Court dropped the contempt proceedings upon receiving unconditional apology from Justice Katju.
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO Common Cause challenging Search Committee Rules framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 as ultra vires, Justice Gogoi held that Lokpal Act was a workable piece of legislation and there was no justification to hold it. Since Lokpal has not been appointed so far, a contempt petition filed against the Centre government is being heard by Justice Gogoi presently.
In yet another seminal case filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising, the bench headed by Justice Gogoi delivered a path-breaking reformative verdict on October 12, 2017, introducing an objective system of 100 points index and interview, for designating a lawyer with the distinction of being a ‘Senior Advocate’. This judgment has transformed designation from a privilege of judges into honour conferred on merits. This will go a long way in promoting merit in the legal profession and is likely to influence the reforms in appointment of High Court judges.
In Lok Prahari case, he along with Justice R Bhanumati struck down the amendment brought by the Uttar Pradesh Government permitting former Chief Ministers to retain government bungalows. Terming the amendment as “arbitrary, discriminatory and unsupported by the Constitution”, he observed that such laws create a separate class and once a public servant demits office there should be nothing to distinguish them from a common person.
Justice Gogoi dealt with the petition filed by advocate Anindita Pujari seeking crèche facility within the premises of the Apex Court and ordered to make crèche facility operational March 1, 2018. Recently a constitution bench presided over by him held that states cannot expand the list of SCs/STs who are to get benefit of reservation in the state and the list can be extended by the Parliament only. It was further held by majority of 4:1 that pan India reservation policy is also applicable for government jobs in Delhi.
Justice Gogoi was part of seven-judge bench that held Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan guilty of contempt of the Court. He signed off the separate but concurring judgment in that case penned by Justice Chelamsewar wherein they echoed the need to set up appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a judge of a constitutional court requires corrective measures – other than impeachment – to be taken. (IPA/To be continued)

Wednesday, 26 September, 2018