NEW DELHI – Four months after he retired as the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who headed benches that pronounced several key judgements including in the sensitive Ayodhya land dispute case, was on Monday nominated to Rajya Sabha by the BJP led government.
Justice Gogoi had headed the Supreme Court benches that awarded the disputed Ayodhya site to Hindus to build a Ram temple and declined a plea to probe the Rafale fighter plane deal. Justice Gogoi had also publicly defended the exercise for the National Register of Citizens in Assam.
A notification announcing his nomination to the Upper House was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday night.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of article 80 of the Constitution of India, read with clause (3) of that article, the President is pleased to nominate Shri Ranjan Gogoi to the Council of States to fill the vacancy caused due to the retirement of one of the nominated members,” the notification said.
The vacancy was created due to retirement of KTS Tulsi.
Gogoi (65) retired as CJI in November last year after a tenure of a little over 13 months.
He will be the first former Chief Justice of India to be nominated to Rajya Sabha.
Gogoi will be remembered for the verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case that gave Hindus the 2.77 acre disputed land for construction of Ram Temple.
His tenure as judge and as CJI was also marked by controversies as he had faced allegations of sexual harassment, of which he was cleared.
A bench headed by him gave clean chit to the Modi government twice — first on the writ petition and then on the pleas seeking review of the December 14, 2018 verdict — in the Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.
The bench had warned Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for wrongly attributing certain remarks to the apex court in the Rafale case and asked him to be more careful in the future.
Besides, Gogoi headed a bench which in a landmark verdict held that the office of the CJI is a public authority under the Right to Information Act, but “judicial independence has to be kept in mind” while disclosing information in “public interest”.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Gogoi struck down in entirety the rules formulated by the Centre on appointment and service conditions for members of various tribunals, and referred to a larger bench the issue of examining the validity of the passage of the Finance Act, 2017 as Money Bill.
He also led a bench which monitored the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
A lot of controversies plagued the NRC but Gogoi stood his ground and later came out in public defending the decision to hold the exercise to identify illegal immigrants.
As the CJI, he took tough decisions against erring judges and recommended their transfers and a woman high court judge was virtually forced to resign.
He also headed a bench which dealt with contempt proceedings against former apex court judge Markandey Katju for his remarks against judiciary in his blog.
Several senior lawyers and politicians insinuated that a top judge had been rewarded for a verdict that was in line with a key ideological commitment of the ruling dispensation, The Telegraph reported.
“It took a while for what was implicit to become evident, but the independent judiciary is now officially dead,” Supreme Court lawyer Gautam Bhatia tweeted.
It took a while for what was implicit to become evident, but the independent judiciary is now – officially – dead.
— Gautam Bhatia (@gautambhatia88) March 16, 2020
Sanjay Hegde, senior Supreme Court advocate, said: “He has not been just to his own judicial record. Now he has also imperilled the independence and impartiality of fellow judges who sat with him.”
“It (the Rajya Sabha nomination) is clearly political. It shows how the judiciary is being undermined,” Dave told this newspaper. “It’s clear evidence of the absence of judicial independence,” remarked president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Dushyant Dave.
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