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Ranjan Gogoi objected to how Dipak Misra ran Supreme Court as CJI. Now he is acting similarly

2 11 24

In the great drama that is the Indian judiciary, actors and roles change frequently. The script, however problematic, remains consistent.

In January 2018, four senior judges of the Supreme Court – J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – concluded that India’s democracy was in peril. They held an unprecedented press conference, charging the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra of violating conventions and allowing interference from the executive. Their antidote to the deteriorating situation was the sunlight of public scrutiny.

When Misra retired, his job went to one of the four rebel judges. Not surprisingly, expectations ran high of a clean-up that would restore the Supreme Court’s majesty and independence. But three months into Gogoi’s tenure, there is a sense of deja vu. His functioning as the master of the roster and as the head of the collegium, which appoints judges to the higher courts, has drawn severe criticism. His actions are no different than his predecessor’s, Gogoi’s critics point out, making one wonder what that historic press conference really achieved.

In 2018, when Justice KM Joseph’s elevation to the Supreme Court was resisted by the Centre, almost everyone in the judiciary felt the collegium must put its foot down and reiterate its decision. Gogoi was a member of this collegium. It rightly decided to stick to the decision to elevate Joseph, although it gave in to the government on the issue of his seniority.

Misra was blamed for ceding ground on Joseph’s seniority. Questions were raised on why the collegium felt it necessary to club his reiteration with a resolution to elevate two other judges, thereby giving the government the opportunity to make Joseph the junior-most of them.

If that was a transgression, what happened on January 10 was even more serious. A new collegium under Gogoi decided to review a recommendation made in December to fill two vacancies in the apex court with Rajendra Menon and Pradeep Nandrajog, chief justices of Delhi and........

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