Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s Autobiography Reveals Controversial Decisions Undertaken During His Tenure

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The former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi for the first time has revealed about all the controversial decisions undertaken by the Supreme Court (SC) Collegium during his tenure as the CJI.

His autobiography ‘Justice for the Judge: An Autobiography’ clearly asserts about the transfer of High Court (HC) judges.

However, the book has faced major backlashes over social media platforms due to it’s controversial title ‘Justice for the Judge’.

‘Justice for the Judge’ & not ‘Justice by the Judge’ seemed provocative to some netizens, who lambasted the former CJI and the nominated Rajya Sabha member.

The memoir portrays about elevations and transfers of judges, decisions which were undertaken during the tenure of Gogoi.

According to India Today report, concerned memoir talks about the controversial transfer of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog.

“Justice Gogoi reveals that on 12 December 2018, in a Collegium meeting presided over by him as the CJI with Justices Madan B. Lokur, A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and N.V. Ramana, it was agreed upon to recommend the name of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, then Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court for elevation to the Supreme Court of India.” – asserted the report.

However, the former CJI later received a written communication regarding a case by the Delhi High Court in 2015, the decision of which was undertaken by a bench headed by Justice Nandrajog (F. Hoffman La Roche Ltd and Anr vs Cipla Ltd).

Looking after all its details, “Justice Gogoi found that though the case had been decided by Justice Nandrajog on November 27, 2015, there was a second judgment in the case dated December 8, 2015, which had deleted 34 paragraphs of the previous judgment (Paragraphs 4-38). As it turns out, a law intern associated with the bench was tasked with drafting the judgment and the intern had copied paragraphs 4-38 from an article published in a journal in the year 2013. The copied paragraphs were included verbatim in the judgment and on December 8, the bench was compelled to pass orders apologizing to the authors of the article. Against this backdrop, when the Supreme Court in January reconsidered the earlier proposal of recommending Justice Pradeep Nandrajog to the Supreme Court, it was decided in the negative.” – further added the report.

Meanwhile, just 2 months later in 2019, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by former CJI Gogoi recommended Justice Pradeep Nandrajog’s transfer to the Bombay High Court (HC). Thus, Justice Nandrajog’s elevation to the apex court, was unfortunately transformed into a negative decision, leading to his transfer.

The CJI further adds during an enquiry, he found that Justice Rajendra Menon, who then served as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court (HC) recommended names for elevations, which were not based fairly on merit.

“The CJI makes enquiries in different ways; some of these are unique and at times rather unconventional methods are also used. There are no set parameters in this regard and wide discretion is vested in the Chief Justice to choose an appropriate method to unravel the facts and come to a reasonable conclusion. These discreet enquiries are conducted informally,” Justice Gogoi says.

Further, he revealed that his enquiries found a former CJI who had also served as the Chief Justice of Patna High Court may have suggested the names to Justice Menon for the High Court vacancies.

Gogoi through his memoir also talked about Justice Surya Kant, who currently is serving as a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, was elevated as the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, before his senior justice Ajay Kumar Mittal.

However, Justice Jasti Chelameswar had at the time said that to his knowledge, Justice Mittal was “not fit to be a Chief Justice”.

“In these circumstances, did my Collegium do anything wrong in opting for Justice Surya Kant over Justice Mittal? Justice Mittal was later (during my tenure as CJI) elevated as Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court and thereafter transferred as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court from where he retired. If the view of Justice Chelameswar had been made public, could Justice Mittal have become a Chief Justice at all?

The extent of avoidable embarrassment that the so-called ‘lack of transparency’ prevented is evident. Populist notions will necessarily have to be consciously guarded against.” – writes Gogoi.

Gogoi also talked about the transfer of Justice Akil Kureshi, the then Judge of Gujarat High Court.

“In 2018, one day prior to the then Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court (Justice R.S. Reddy) took oath as a Supreme Court judge, the senior-most judge of the Gujarat High Court, Justice Akil Kureshi (next in line to become the High Court Chief Justice) was transferred to the Bombay High Court. Though Justice Kureshi was to remain at Gujarat High Court till November 15, he was not appointed as the Acting Chief Justice.” – reads the report.

Justice Gogoi, in his book, stated that he had called the Law Minister on the morning of November 1 and insisted that they issue new orders appointing Justice Kureshi as the Acting Chief Justice till November 15. The next day, the government issued a new notification.

He adds that “The objection was based on a negative perception flowing from certain judicial orders passed by Justice Kureshi.”

He further added that “A Chief Justice, regardless of the size of the High Court, is a Chief Justice and becomes eligible for consideration for elevation to the Supreme Court. Justice Kureshi thus continues to be eligible for consideration for elevation to the Supreme Court until the end of his High Court tenure in March 2022.”

He also talked about the transfer of Justice VK Tahilramani, from the Madras High Court to the Meghalaya High Court in 2019 created a huge uproar.

‘Justice for the Judge: An Autobiography’ also reveals about an unnamed judge, who then served as the Judge of Delhi High Court (HC).

The former CJI also talked about the unanimous verdict in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case. “After the judgement, the Secretary General organised a photo session in the judges’ gallery outside Court No 1, below the Ashoka Chakra. In the evening, I took the judges for dinner to Taj Mansingh Hotel. We ate Chinese food and shared a bottle of wine, the best available there. I picked the tab, being the eldest.” – writes Gogoi. This was his last case before retirement on November 17, 2019.

The former CJI also spoke-up on the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him by a former Supreme Court employee in a chapter titled, “Supreme Allegations and My Quest for Truth”.

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