The entry of former chief justice Ranjan Gogoi into the Rajya Sabha is unlikely to have caused any shock or surprise in anyone. The democratic society has already assessed his new position as a reward for fulfilling the wishes of the BJP regime at the centre. There is small wonder in Gogoi's oath-taking other than as an example of the judiciary's subservience to the government.
Several judgements from benches presided over by Ranjan Gogoi, such as in Rafale and Babari Masjid cases, were viewed with frowns. Now this elevation makes it clear like daylight for whom they are all meant. It is the country's sad fate to be helpless spectators of the blatant violation of constitutional precedents by those who occupied the highest office of judiciary and those who headed the state. Former Supreme Court justice J Chelameswar had, in an extraordinary letter during March 2018 to the then chief justice Dipak Misra, stated bluntly that the bonhomie between the judiciary and the government would sound the death knell of democracy. But what emanates now from the capital is a foul smell of the fortress of judiciary. The prescience contained in the impassioned plea by Justice VR Krishna Iyer to the judiciary not to write its own obituary, has come to realisation.
The nomination to Rajya Sabha of Ranjan Gogoi, who had retired as chief justice of Supreme Court on 17 November last year, was made by President Ramnath Kovind in exercise of his powers to nominate to the Upper House 12 persons having special knowledge, or practical experience in respect of literature, science, art and social service. Even at the face of vehement criticisms, Gogoi has accepted it and taken oath as a member. Questions have already been raised whether the President's nomination and Gogoi's membership in parliament have legal validity. Many jurists point out that the President has legally no authority to nominate any one from outsie the listed disciplines. And no one knows about Gogoi having made any contribution in the fields named. As for the domain of law, it is outside what is mentioned in the Constitution.
Judiciary is generally described as an institution that protects law without letting it fall, break or get smeared. This definition premises itself on the idea that it is an institution with the powers to keep in the right direction the legislature which makes laws and the executive which enforces law and if necessary to check them. But instances have already become known of such a responsible instituton itself having become out of joint. Many in the judicial empire are in a severe credibility deficit. And a majority of them are those who lament that there is no option but to be servile to the government. For the last six years, there have been a series of instances of people in the good books of the sangh parivar being appointed judges, and those unsavoury to it being rejected. At one point, four Supreme Court judges, inluding Ranjan Gogoi himself, had openly told the media that even the roster of Supreme Court's benches were made to suit the wishes of the ruling establishment. But when he came to head the apex court, what Gogoi tried was not to restore the credibility, but to be more servile than the predecessor. In the case about the Rafale probe, in the Babri masjid judgement, in the case involving removal of Alok Verma from the top post of the CBI, and in the abrogation of Article 370, there were reproaches at those times that Gogoi did not stand on the side of law, but of the government. And all those verdicts were getting accepted on the conventional notion - for want of another option - that judges are beyond criticism. The nomination in question comes as a reward, before the sweat got dry, for all those judgements.
The argument that the nomination of Gogoi is an attempt to create cohesion between the legislature and the judiciary, is a specious one. As matter of fact, what Gogoi has done is to bolster a hidden effort, knowingly or unknowingly, to weaken and erode the credibility of the judiciary. Charges have been raised against him by former Supreme Court Judges Markandey Kadju, Santosh Hegde, and senior SC lawyer Kapil Sibal about Gogoi's making a recommendation before the Modi government for his daughter's father-in-law in 2016, the unholy drama played out in the light of the sexual abuse allegations against him to wriggle out of the charge using the government machinery and the backing of the sangh media and of having smeared the sanctity of the judiciary. He even paved the way for the government to hound counsel Indira Jaising for having intervened for the complainant in the sexual abuse case. The oath-taking in Rajya Sabha by Ranjan Gogoi reveals the gravity of the cancer that is eating into India's judiciary, at the same time when the government is asking its officers and judges to be loyal to the regime and win rewards, or be ready to be ousted. Holy judiciary has become an unholy fiction.