Outgoing Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi declined interview requests from journalists on his last working day on Friday, saying judges need to maintain silence while exercising their freedoms.
“This is not to say that judges do not speak,” he said. “They do speak, but do so only out of functional necessity and no more. Bitter truths must remain in memory.”
The chief justice said that as a public functionary entrusted with “onerous” constitutional duties, “the idea of courting the press never endeared itself as a choice in the interest of my institution”. Gogoi said he chose to “belong to an institution whose strength lay in public confidence and trust, earned not through good press, but through our work as judges on the bench”.
Gogoi said reaching the citizenry through the press was not the requirement of the institution of the Supreme Court. “Rather, such outreach ought to be symbolic of an extraordinary situation, demanding an exception to the norm,” Gogoi told journalists. “I have always soldiered to strengthen our institutional values, and as part of such discourse, I would not be able to meet your request for a one-on-one meet.”
However, Gogoi praised the role of the media during his tenure. He said that even during difficult moments in the judiciary, most members of the media played a “stellar role”. “Even during trying times, when when our institution was keeping an ambush or two at bay, most members of the press displayed maturity and character, and exercised exceptional discretion to prevent canards and falsehood from clogging the news space,” he said.
In January 2018, Gogoi and Justices Madan B Lokur, Jasti Chelameswar and Kurien Joseph, held an unprecedented press conference and levelled allegations against then CJI Dipak Misra of violating conventions and allowing the executive to interfere in the court’s affairs. They alleged that “democracy is in danger”. All the judges except Gogoi are retired now. Gogoi retires on Sunday, and his successor, SA Bobde, will take over on Monday.