In one of his very recent posts on Facebook (March 17, 2020) , former Judge of the Supreme Court of India Markandey Katju has made some scathing remarks on former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. Following is the production of the exact post from his Facebook Page.
“I have been a lawyer for 20 years and a judge for another 20. I have known many good judges and many bad judges. But I have never known any judge in the Indian judiciary as shameless and disgraceful as this sexual pervert Ranjan Gogoi. There was hardly any vice which was not in this man. And now this rascal and rogue is going to adorn the Indian Parliament.”
This post comes in the wake of Rajan Gogoi’s nomination as a member of Rajya Sabha by President under Article 80(3) of the Constitution.
Justice (retired) Markandey Katju is not new to the controversy. Earlier in January he had called Ranjan Gogoi ‘rascal’ and ‘rogue’ when woman employee who had accused Ranjan Gogoi of sexual molestation was reinstated for her job in Supreme Court.
In November, 2016 he was summoned in the Supreme Court no. 6 to explain why judgement delivered by Supreme Court in Soumya rape and murder case was wrong. He was summoned in relation to the blog where he had criticised the judgement and called it “grave miscarriage of justice”. After ruckus, 3 judge bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi (as he was then) had issued content notice against him and escorts were called to take Justice Katju out of court.
In 2015, one of his posts, Justice (retired) Katju had called, Mahatma Gandhi "a British agent who did great harm to India", Rabindranath Tagore "a loyal British stooge" and Subhas Chandra Bose "an agent of the Japanese fascist imperialists". It had created huge uproar in the country, and both the houses of parliament, Rajya Sabha on 11.03.2015 and Lok Sabha on 12.03.2015 passed resolution condemning Justice (retired) Katju’s remarks.
He has not shied away from hurting religion sentiments either. In the same earlier post, he said that cow is stupidly depicted as a ‘mother’ by Hindus and Burqa or Hijab is stupidly worn by Muslim women.
In 2012, in one of his columns and later at one seminar, he made a statement that “90 per cent of Indians are fools and Indians don't have brains in their heads”, he went on to say that "80% of Hindus and 80% of Muslims are communal". At one seminar, he even termed India as "an extremely backward country".
If we talk about Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination to Rajya Sabha then Article 80(3) allows President to nominate 12 members in Rajya Sabha having special knowledge or practical experience in the field of literature, science, art and social service. Hence, words of the Constitution allow President to nominate former Chief Justice of India as a member of Rajya Sabha, but constitutional spirit may not.
Fear of independence of judiciary being compromised severally has been voiced by many legal luminaries including Justice (retired) Madan B. Lokur, Justice (retired) Kurian Joseph, senior advocate and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Dushyant Dave, senior advocates Raju Ramachandran, Arvind Datar, Sanjay Hedge, Kapil Sibal, Vikas Singh, lawyer Karuna Nundy and many others. When all these legal luminaries have done so respecting Ranjan Gogoi as he being former CJI, Markandey Katju’s severe criticism stands out for its harsh language.
These legal eagles have not personally made any remarks against Ranjan Gogoi, but their fear was for the ripple effect that this nomination will have on the standing of judiciary vis-à-vis executive and legislature.
If we look at the history of political appointments in Indian then following incidents glaringly come to the fore.
One of the very first incident is appointment of M. C. Chagla (former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court), as India’s ambassador to the United States and then as a high commissioner to the United Kingdom by Jawaharlal Nehru led Government in 1958.
Earlier on two occasions former judges of the Supreme Court were nominated to Upper House of Parliament. First time in 1983, retired Judge of Supreme Court, Baharul Islam was nominated by Indira Gandhi government. Before his elevation to the bench, he already had been member of Rajya Sabha from 1962 to 1972.
Second time in 1998, when former Chief Justice of India, Ranganath Mishra who had retied from judgeship in 1992, was sent to Rajya Sabha by Indian National Congress (INC). But this time controversy was doused as Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power, hence election of judge from opposition party didn’t raise question of the government misusing its power to compromise independence of judiciary.
In 1970, former Chief Justice of India, M. Hidayatullah was elected as Vice President by all party consensus.
In 1952, for the first-time former judge of the Supreme Court was appointed as a governor of any state, when Justice (retired) S. Fazl Ali was made governor of Odisha state. Then in 1997, Justice (retired) Fathima Beevi (also the first woman to reach to the judgeship of Supreme Court) was made governor of Tamil Nadu. Latest being P. Sathasivam, former Chief Justice of India, who was appointed as a governor of state of Kerala in 2014.
In His defence, Ranjan Gogoi has said that “I have accepted the offer of the nomination to the Rajya Sabha because of strong conviction, that the legislature and the Judiciary must at some point of time work together for Nation-building”. He further said that “My presence in Parliament will be an opportunity to project the views of the Judiciary before the legislature and vice versa”. At the end he said “I have much to say but let me take the oath in the Parliament and then I shall open up”.
Has the last bastion fallen? We may get answer when Member of Parliament and former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi rises to speak in the Upper Chamber of Indian Legislature.
Author: Parth Thummar