Why You Should Stand up for Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi

1 of 2: By: R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

You know the latest Indian high functionary who faces allegations of sexual misconduct – it doesn’t get bigger than this, at least for now. He is the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi who is accused of sexual harassment by a former woman employee of the supreme court.

Denying the allegations, the Chief Justice wondered whether a ‘bigger force’ might be at work to “deactivate the office of the Chief Justice of India” and he regretted that “things have gone too far”. You would empathise with him if you sniff the air over India’s public life and sense your conscience, keeping aside any lawyerly instincts in you.

True, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi did not quite realise an earlier attempt to denigrate the office he now holds, when Justice Dipak Misra was his predecessor Chief Justice in the same court. That was in Jan. 2018 when Justice Gogoi, as the next CJI in line, joined three other sitting judges of the supreme court to call a press conference and voice their grievance publicly against Chief Justice Dipak Misra on administrative issues. Doing that was a blatant indiscretion for a judge, apart from anything more as it could be. If you faulted Justice Gogoi for such indiscretion you did it for a higher cause – to cherish the independence and dignity of the office of India’s Chief Justice. It is that higher cause that tells you now to back him and help him stand tall and uphold the prestige of his present office as Chief Justice of India.

It should have been really hard for Justice Ranjan Gogoi to live down his image in the backdrop of that infamous press meet and then, after he became CJI, establish himself as an upright no-nonsense non-partisan head of the nation’s judiciary, clearing any lurking doubts on the way. It is a transformation for the good, and now he needs and deserves our support.

When Chief Justice Dipak Misra headed the supreme court, surely a ‘bigger force’ was at work against him. That was a desperate political force that tried to get him impeached but failed. Don’t be surprised if the same political force has grown more desperate and is turning against the current Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who has been straightforward and has given clear signs of independence. No marks for answering this no-brainer: which political party as of today will be most troubled by an independent chief justice leading the supreme court, and so it could be behind or alongside any move to shame and intimidate him? You’ll get it right – though you may say it or hide it depending on your political affiliation and how clean you keep your conscience.

Some clever lawyers and their tutored political clients might ask with a chuckle, “What’s the proof for the ‘bigger force’ Chief Justice Gogoi suspects?” Well, the bigger force that rooted for Justice Ranjan Gogoi before his elevation as Chief Justice of India and applauded his joint press conference against the previous Chief Justice, does not stand with him now. That force cannot remain aloof or silent, and the only thing it should be doing now is this: work against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, because after his elevation as the top most judge he has belied some expectations and he functions fairly and independently.

Remember the unforgettable Justice Kurian Joseph? He was one of the four sitting judges of the supreme court who appeared at their joint press meet against the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra. Quickly after his retirement, Kurian Joseph was interviewed on television and by newspapers when he dropped a bombshell. He said that he and the other three press-conference judges, as also many other unnamed brother judges and the media too, had perceived that Chief Justice Dipak Misra was under some external influence and was losing his independence. In the same breath, Kurian Joseph said with a straight face that he or anybody else could not identify that external influence and could only perceive its presence. Did any of the other sources Kurian Joseph claimed as sharing his perception on Chief Justice Dipak Misra come out to confirm his assertion? No.

Through his post-retirement interviews, did Kurian Joseph severely assault the dignity of the leader of India’s judiciary? Absolutely. Did he furnish any scrap of proof? Nothing, as he owned up.  Was he, for what he expressed, in contempt of the supreme court? Yes – he was just lucky not to be tried for contempt. Did television channels and newspapers, and other prominent lawyers and critics who fault Chief Justice Gogoi at this moment, criticise Kurian Joseph at that time for his vague and flimsy allegation against Chief Justice Dipak Misra? No, not at all. Now, don’t you see who the chief actors are in the ‘bigger force’ Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi spoke about as a real threat to an independent judiciary? India should beware, or pay a heavy price.

Let’s also remember that with right objectives we have made some wrong laws, conferring excessive rights on some groups of persons and resulting in excessive disabilities on another group of persons.  We don’t find any significant betterment or upliftment of the group that is given such excessive rights, but we see some mischief makers among that group uncontrollably abuse their special rights and torment their victims. One such law gives excessive rights to women, enabling them to name a man with an allegation of the widely-defined ‘rape’ or related offences but restraining all from revealing her name and identity.  Any sexual offender should be severely punished.  But there is no justification for leaving an open field for tormenting innocent men or keeping men in fear of being named and shamed – for as long as it goes – by mischievous women who could remain anonymous or by any ‘bigger force’ partnering with such a woman to intimidate a man who doesn’t yield to that force.

Many men would  wish they don’t  work closely with women at offices and risk false charges of any kind of sexual harassment coming at them later to settle personal scores. This is truer with men supervising women in the workplace since anybody likes to go around, not near, a suspected pitfall. Even a judge, even the Chief Justice of India, has to watch out. This is due to the nature of ordinary humans in any country, race or religion, to abuse a benefit or advantage and score over others if there is no effective check.  There is no gender bias in this view.

If you read the complaint of the former woman employee of the supreme court, you’ll find that the offence she details and describes comes close to the legal definition for the offence of rape though she has not used that term.  That’s why the media – in compliance with a perceived legal prohibition – has not published the accuser’s name, but anyone is free to mention the name of CJI Ranjan Gogoi. If you, whether a man or woman, feel he has been falsely and maliciously accused, you cannot know the identity of the dubious complainant even if you just wish to curse her for her motive. The offence allegedly took place in October 2018, the complainant later faced a departmental enquiry on some unrelated charges and she was dismissed from the supreme court in December 2018. Now, on 19th April 2019, she has come out with a sexual harassment charge against the CJI.

As Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi remarked, “things have gone too far”. And so, the complaint against him has to be prudently handled.  But surely the time has come to insulate all judges of the supreme court, as long as they are in office, from any criminal proceeding. Like the President and Governor of a State have such protection, judges of the supreme court need it for more weighty reasons. When some thirty Governors of our States, who are mostly retired politicians, are kept out of any criminal prosecution with no harm occurring to anyone, do it for all supreme court judges too.

As we should take care in the selection of upright independent judges to the supreme court, they should not also be left vulnerable to easy threats of blackmail and intimidation when they are in office. We need a sensible balancing of the public interest, and we should fashion our laws accordingly. After all, we know what some nasty politicians and cunning businessmen are capable of, and to what lengths they may go, to subdue a judge who may be the last hurdle on their mad run. Let’s not be fake and pretentious. Let’s be real and honest.

(Note: This article is borrowed with thanks from HERE)

Copyright R. Veera Raghavan

2 of 2: By: Shreepal Singh

It was said a long time ago – exactly in 1993. And in the efforts to destablize Indian judiciary – first reflected in the holding of a Press Conference against the Chief Justice of India (Justice Deepak Mishra) and again reflected in the allegation of sexual assault on a woman employee by the Chief Justice of India (Justice Ranjan Gogoi) now – it has come true. It was almost a prediction based on commonsense. It was – then – said that the corrupt money generated by economic liberalization “without imposing an iron-discipline of an enlightened life and its values” would step by step destroy all organs of Indian democratic institutions.

The exact words used – linked to the original writing – are thus:

They felt that the money power generated by such economic liberalization would percolate down step by step to a large number of middle and higher sections of the Indian society, which sections in turn, with the help of their money power, would eat away the purity of all democratic institutions of national governance, viz., political parties, Parliament, judiciary, bureaucracy etc. It was the foreboding of a coming corrupt India.

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