Gogoi served as the CJI between October 2018 and November 2019 and is SA Bobde’s predecessor.
“Who are these activist judges working with?” Gogoi asked during a webinar by the Confederation of Alumni for National Law Universities. “Who is giving platforms to them for saying all this? There are no questions asked.” The retired judge also put focus on two other categories of judges who get commercial arbitration work after retirement and those who accept other assignments.
“Why only it is the third category that draws all the flak? Why are no questions asked about the other two?” he asked.
Gogoi said the judiciary is not against criticism but there had to be an honest, intellectual and academic exercise. He said certain “ideological group of people”, intellectuals and activists identify the “independent judges” and added that these judges are required to be anti-establishment.
“He must be anti-authoritarianism...” Gogoi said, according to PTI. “He must be eloquent on issues like rich-poor divide, oppression of the marginalised, issues pertaining to suppression of fundamental rights and he must advocate free speech even to the extent of touching the frontiers of defamation – These are the identification marks of an “independent judge.” In cases where the judge does not possess these qualities, Gogoi said they face criticism instead.
When asked why the Ayodhya ruling did not contain the name of the author, the former CJI questioned the need for it. “I can show 32 cases decided by a particular bench in 2015-’16 when [the] author wasn’t named in the judgment,” he said. “But then no questions were asked. Speaking for myself, I have myself been author of 13 judgments when the author’s name wasn’t mentioned.”
In November last year, days before his retirement, Gogoi had presided over the Ayodhya land dispute case. A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had unanimously decided to allot the disputed Ayodhya plot to a trust that will oversee the construction of a Ram temple there. The bench also ruled that a separate five-acre plot be allotted in Ayodhya to Muslims for the construction of a mosque.
Gogoi claimed that the author of this ruling was sought by “critics” who expected all five judges to author separate judgements so that the hearing could not be concluded before his retirement.
The former CJI also noted that the Supreme Court Collegium did not face any interference from the government during his time while appointing judges, reported Hindustan Times.
On March 16, Gogoi was nominated a member of the Rajya Sabha. He took oath in the Parliament three days later.
Gogoi was also involved in a sexual harassment case after a woman employee had levelled allegations him. In April last year, the woman, who had earlier worked as a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court, alleged in an affidavit that he had made sexual advances on her at his residence office on October 10 and October 11, 2018. Gogoi denied the allegations during a special hearing he called on April 20. The chief justice said he did not “deem it appropriate” to reply to the allegations but claimed they were part of a “bigger plot”, possibly one to “deactivate the office of the CJI”.
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”.