Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi will hang up his boots on Sunday after serving a tenure of a little over 13 months. The first chief justice from northeast India will always be remembered in the legal annals of India for presiding over a raft of critical verdicts, including the Ayodhya verdict on Saturday.
Under his tenure, the Supreme Court cleared the way for construction of a temple on the disputed site, giving the 2.77 acre disputed land in Ayodhya to the Hindus and asked the government to give alternate land for a mosque to the Sunni Waqf Board, which was a party to the title suit. In the unanimous judgement, the five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the Centre to form, within three months, a trust which will build a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Besides Ayodhya, Gogoi-led Supreme Court bench on Thursday gave clean chit to the Modi government on the purchase of 36 fully loaded Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, rejecting the plea for registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged commission of cognisable offence in the deal. The apex court in two separate but concurring verdicts said the review petitions were without merit and required to be dismissed.
In yet another contentious Sabarimala case, the apex court decided to set up a larger bench to re-examine religious issues including those arising out of its 2018 verdict that lifted a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.
If these were tinderbox cases, Gogoi’s tenure became mired in controversy after a woman accused him of sexual harassment.
The 35-year-old junior court assistant, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, wrote a letter earlier this year to all Supreme Court judges along with an affidavit detailing her allegations against Gogoi. She eventually said she would no longer participate in the proceedings of a judges’ panel investigating the case as she does not expect justice.
In January this year, Gogoi and four judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference to express their anguish with the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra and with the manner he was assigning cases.
Born on November 18, 1954, Gogoi is the son of former Assam chief minister Keshab Chandra Gogoi.
Gogoi joined the bar in 1978 and practised mainly in the Gauhati high court, where he was appointed as Permanent Judge in February 2001.
Following a nine-year stint at Gauhati high court, Gogoi was transferred to Punjab & Haryana high court in September 2010, where a year later he was appointed as the chief justice.
In April 2012, Gogoi was elevated as judge of the Supreme Court. In October 2018, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of India.
During his tenure as a Supreme Court judge, Gogoi was part of several critical rulings.
In August 2014, a bench of Justice Gogoi and Justice RK Agarwal gave the Centre and the Assam government three years to complete the entire process to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Gogoi will settle down in Guwahati following his retirement.