As CJI, Jus­tice Go­goi has to ‘dis­charge debt to the na­tion’

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - | POLITICS POLICY -

Seven­teen and a half years ago, 46-year-old Ran­jan Go­goi was ap­pointed as a judge of Gauhati high court af­ter 23 years as an ad­vo­cate. When his fa­ther Kesab Chan­dra Go­goi, who was chief min­is­ter of As­sam in 1982, died in Au­gust 1998, Go­goi had a lu­cra­tive le­gal prac­tice. Go­goi se­nior had proph­e­sied that his son would not en­ter pol­i­tics, would con­tinue as an ad­vo­cate and that he had the métier to be­come the Chief Jus­tice of In­dia (CJI).

Each HC judge be­gins from the bot­tom of the se­nior­ity list. Only very few reach the CJI’s post. One may call it luck or destiny, even though an in­di­vid­ual’s grey mat­ter, hard work and per­se­ver­ance make im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions. When Go­goi be­came an HC judge, Jus­tice A S Anand was the 29th CJI. On Oc­to­ber 3, Jus­tice Go­goi will take oath as the 46th CJI.

He will be the cap­tain of ju­di­ciary till Novem­ber 17, 2019. When an in­di­vid­ual cap­tains a na­tional team, be it cricket or ju­di­ciary, he of­ten finds the post to be lonely, as CJI Di­pak Misra ex­pe­ri­enced early in his ten­ure. A good cap­tain must share lau­rels for laud­able work with his team mem­bers. But fail­ures are or­phans and the cap­tain alone takes the jeers and crit­i­cism, as hap­pens in life.

CJI-des­ig­nate Go­goi will have his ‘life is like that’ mo­ments dur­ing his cap­taincy. Any nar­ra­tion on Jus­tice Go­goi would be in­com­plete with­out men­tion­ing the un­prece­dented press con­fer­ence of Jan­uary 12 that fea­tured the four se­nior­most Supreme Court judges — Jus­tices J Che­lameswar, Go­goi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. It led to the fil­ing of an im­peach­ment no­tice against CJI Misra by Congress in Ra­jya Sabha.

Judges are su­per-sen­si­tive about their rep­u­ta­tion and dig­nity.

Rightly so, be­cause at­tri­bu­tion of mo­tive to a judge causes ir­re­versible fray­ing of pub­lic faith in the ju­di­ciary, which an over­whelm­ing Chief Jus­tice of In­dia Di­pak Misra with his suc­ces­sor Ran­jan Go­goi in this file photo. As CJI from Oc­to­ber 3, Go­goi will re­alise that there are far more sig­nif­i­cant debts to the na­tion that he would be ex­pected to dis­charge as cap­tain of the ju­di­ciary ma­jor­ity be­lieves is the last bas­tion to get jus­tice.

Jus­tice Go­goi, as Gauhati HC judge, had given a de­tailed judg­ment on this is­sue while de­cid­ing a con­tempt case against ver­nac­u­lar daily ‘Ajir Dainik Ba­tori’ [2008 (1) GLT 800]. He had said, “All we would ask is that those who crit­i­cise us will re­mem­ber that, from the na­ture of our of­fice, we can­not re­ply to their crit­i­cisms. We can­not en­ter into pub­lic con­tro­versy, still less into po­lit­i­cal con- wise words with the press con­fer­ence.

At the presser, Jus­tice Go­goi, in his char­ac­ter­is­tic brief but pierc­ing style, had said, “It is about as­sign­ment of a case (Loya case). What­ever Jus­tice Che­lameswar said is enough. It is a dis­charge of debt to the na­tion and we have done it.”

Jus­tice Go­goi had needed jour­nal­ists to con­vey that he and his col­leagues were dis­charg­ing a “debt to the na­tion”. But he has a dif­fer­ent ap­proach in his SC court­room, for he has ban­ished re­porters far­thest from the judges’ dais to the visi­tors’ gallery. When any im­por­tant case comes up for hear­ing be­fore a bench headed by him, po­lice­men go into a tizzy push­ing away jour­nal­ists.

As CJI from Oc­to­ber 3, Jus­tice Go­goi will re­alise that there are far more sig­nif­i­cant debts to the na­tion that he would be ex­pected to dis­charge as cap­tain of the ju­di­ciary. His re­cent for­mula — coun­try needed “in­de­pen­dent and some­times noisy judges” — will come handy in achiev­ing these goals.

First, the mon­strous pen­dency of nearly three crore cases that is gnaw­ing at the ju­di­ciary. Sec­ond, de­spite a three-year-old con­sti­tu­tion bench judge­ment of the SC, me­moran­dum of pro­ce­dure for ap­point­ment of judges to the SC and HCs is yet to be fi­nalised. Third, there is al­most 40% va­cancy in high courts and 20% in the Supreme Court.

We must not for­get that Jus­tice Go­goi dis­plays ju­di­cial courage and took the bull by its horn in sen­si­tive yet con­tro­ver­sial is­sues like Na­tional Regis­ter of Cit­i­zens in As­sam, lay­ing down pro­ce­dure for des­ig­na­tion of se­nior ad­vo­cates, set­ting up of spe­cial courts for ex­pe­di­tious com­ple­tion of crim­i­nal case against politi­cians, much de­layed ap­point­ment of Lok­pal and his fear­less ap­proach to­wards a band of ad­vo­cates who use PIL as a weapon to sharpen pub­lic opin­ion than help ame­lio­rate the con­di­tion of the poor. We are sure Jus­tice Go­goi will suc­ceed in dis­charg­ing the debt to the na­tion.

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