From an unusual January 2018 press conference criticising his predecessor Dipak Misra for violating conventions to deliver as many as 47 judgments including the landmark Ayodhya land case, Justice Ranjan Gogoi's 13-month stint as India’s 46th Chief Justice has been a dramatic one.
The son of a former chief minister of Assam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi will formally retire on November 17. November 15 was his last working day and Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde will take over as the new CJI on November 18. Justice Gogoi, who had called on judges to sometimes be noisy to defend democracy and the institution, has chosen to exit quietly.
In a statement issued today, Justice Gogoi said, “judges do speak out of functional necessity, bitter truths must remain in memory.”
There are three standout features of Justice Ranjan Gogoi legacy. The first are the six landmark verdicts, second is the controversy involving charges of sexual harassment, and third, the press conference that took place with four sitting judges coming out against the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Ashok Bagariya, Legal Editor at Hindustan Times said, “Justice Ranjan Gogoi will be remembered more so for his judicial decisiveness. In fact he was solely responsible for bringing to quietus the longest standing dispute in Indian judicial history which is the Ayodhya matter.”
“Another important thing that will go down as a part of Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s legacy is his NRC verdict because this is something which he took upon himself as a personal or rather a pet project. He is a man who is solely responsible for pushing the drawing up of the NRC list in Assam,” he added.
According to Bagariya, the only thing that marred Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure was the allegations of sexual harassment made by his junior staff. “This is one plight which will stay with him. There was an enquiry which was conducted by three sitting judges of the Supreme Court. However, the report and the findings of those report were not made public. So, it is not clear as to what transpired, but it is clear that he was given a clean chit,” Bagariya said.
Speaking about whether transparency and public scrutiny were a causality in Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s court, Alok Prasanna, Senior Resident Fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy said, “Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s tenure in the Supreme Court has been a disaster for the institution. He came in with a lot of expectations, we hoped that he would be somebody who will bring in more transparency, who will throw open the doors of the court to the public, at least that is what he was saying before, but his tenure has been about shutting the doors firmly in the face of people.”
Prasanna further added that the Resolutions of Collegium which were made public for the last two years, has now been stopped. “I am given to believe that this was the initiative of the next Chief Justice, Justice Bobde. It is unfortunate that this was never put in as an institutional practice to ensure that the Supreme Court will always need information about the Collegium Resolutions public,” he said.