Question of Ethics

When former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi took oath as a member of the Rajya Sabha, his appointment to the legislature had already been mired in controversy and several critics saw it as detrimental to the independence of the judiciary.

By Atif Shamim Syed | May 2020

Aormer chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi is no stranger to controversies, be it the Supreme Court crisis of 2018 or the allegation of sexual harassment in 2019.

But the recent controversy surrounding his appointment to the Rajya Sabha was something no one – not even his staunch rivals - had seen coming. In fact, no one thought that the former Chief Justice will have the tenacity to mock the principles pf judicial integrity in such a brazen manner.

This is not all. Mr. Gogoi and his wife were showered with unprecedented benefits by a protocol committee of the high court only two weeks before his retirement. These benefits, among others, included a dedicated private secretary, a grade-IV peon, a bungalow peon, and a chauffeur-driven government vehicle with fuel.

These benefits are much more than what is allowed under India’s Supreme Court Judges Rules, 1959. As if to add insult to the injury, it is not yet clear if the tax payers will continue to pay for Mr. Gogoi extravagance despite his appointment to the Rajya Sabha, and his move to the capital.

India has seen its share of immoral and unethical acts committed by politicians and public servants. However, this recent misconduct on the part of a Supreme Court judge has no precedent. Mr. Gogoi very conveniently declared that he will explain the reasons for the decision only after he had taken oath, but one of his colleagues, Justice A.P. Shah, has already affirmed what everyone knew but dared not say: that the largesse is payback from the government for serving its interests while Mr. Gogoi was in office.

If this is indeed a payback appointment, there is much on Ranjan Gogoi’s list of deliverables that needed paying back. First of all, he acted as the BJP’s front man in the Supreme Court for effecting the hasty preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state of Assam. People who witnessed the proceedings of the case will testify the ruthless manner in which the ex-Chief Justice admonished officials responsible for the preparation of the infamous documents.

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