The tenure of Justice Dipak Misra, who retires as chief justice of India on October 2, was mired in controversies, but he firmly stood against all the odds and had ultimately his way. The Opposition led by the Congress sought to bring an impeachment motion against Justice Misra but the motion was rejected by Rajya Sabha chairman, Venkaiah Naidu. Naidu observed that the motion lacks substantial merit. “We cannot allow any pillars of governance to be weakened by any thought, word or action.”
The Congress and other Opposition parties were piqued at the way CJI functioned, implying that he favoured BJP-led the government. A senior BJP leader said judiciary is one of the strongest pillars of democracy and we should not try to destabilise it.
“I am not qualified enough to say whether CJI Dipak Misra is favouring the ruling BJP or not. I know only one thing that he is our chief justice and we Indians should respect the post. Yet, the CJI has given some verdict which has not gone in favour of Opposition parties but it doesn’t mean that he is not following the natural justice system. The main Opposition wants to pressurise Supreme Court so that there is no decision before 2019 election. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal had filed a petition before Supreme Court not to give final verdict on Ayodhya issue before 2019 election.”
It is well known that Dipak Misra comes from a family of Congress stalwarts from Odisha. His grandfather Godabarish Misra was a minister in Odisha government before Independence. His uncle, Lokenath Mishra was a former Rajya Sabha member. “The problem with the so-called intellectual class is that they are not ready to accept any other opinion. They think ‘it is my way or highway’. The same class went to Supreme Court at 3 am for mercy petition of criminal Yakub Memon but they have an issue when SC gives verdict on triple talaq. The so-called civil society cries foul when any verdict doesn’t come the way they want”, a senior BJP leader said.
On January 12 this year, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and his three colleagues Justices Chelameswar (since retired), Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph called a press conference to raise question on CJI’s allocation of cases to Benches in the Supreme that has brought us here.
Ever since the January press conference, there was speculation whether Justice Gogoi’s name would be overlooked for the CJI’s post. Chief Justice Dipak Misra adhered to the tradition of recommending the senior-most judge after him for the high office.
The incoming CJI Ranjan Gogoi is a man of action. He speaks little but acts. Over the years, he garnered a reputation for being a judge who applies his mind, is proper and holds all nature of relationships in high regard. He kept a neat house in Guwahati, recall his peers from there, with a flower garden he was exceptionally fond of.
“The problem with the so-called intellectual class is that they are not ready to accept any other opinion. They think ‘it is my way or highway’. The same class went to the Supreme Court at 3 am for mercy petition of criminal Yakub Memon but they have an issue when the Supreme Court gives a verdict on triple talaq. The so-called civil society cries foul when any verdict doesn’t come the way they want…”
He has been spotted buying his own fish from a government outlet in South Delhi. The fishmonger was awestruck that a judge came to select and choose his own dinner. He is known to be a workaholic and a keen reader of briefs, sometime surprising lawyers by his own meticulously scanning the files.
Justice Gogoi started his career as a permanent judge of the Gauhati High Court in Feburary 2001. He went on to be transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High court in 2010. He came to Supreme Court as a judge on April 23, 2012. He will be first chief justice of India from North East.
Justice Gogoi does not own a car and only recently his mother, Shanti Gogoi, a respected social worker, transferred an old home to him in Kamrup district. Justice Gogoi grew up in Dibrugarh and those who knew him as junior judge say he has a “big heart” and thinks with his mind.
The business of a chief justice recommending the senior-most judge as a successor should be a routine procedure. Who will be chief justice and who will not is known for years in advance and the only time that it has been broken was during the tenure of Indira Gandhi when two chief justices were brought in out of turn and senior judges were bypassed who went on to resign.
But 2018 was anything but routine life of Supreme Court. January 12, 2018 saw an unprecedented coming out by four top judges of the Supreme Court who shared a letter they wrote to incumbent chief justice Dipak Misra raising serious questions about how cases were allocated to the judges in court.
Justice Gogoi is set to take charge of the ship at a time of turbulence, within and outside, his predecessor becoming first CJI to have an impeachment motion sought to be moved against him.
(The author is a political commentator)