Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi says country’s judiciary is ‘Ramshackled’

Courtesy: Live Law

New Delhi: Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi called the judiciary of the country ‘ramshackled’ and went to the extent of suggesting that even he won’t go to the courts.

“Who goes to the court? You go to the court and regret”, Gogoi said adding that it is those who can afford to take chances, like the big corporates, who approach the courts.

MS Education Academy

Gogoi, who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in March 2020 after his retirement as the CJI in November 2019, was speaking at an event organized by the India Today channel.

“If you go to the Court, you would be washing your dirty linen in the Court. You will not get a verdict”, the ex-CJI said in reply to a question by the anchor whether he would take legal action against Mahua Moitra MP over her statements in the Lok Sabha that Gogoi discredited the judiciary by deciding the sexual harassment allegations against him.

Without naming Moitra, Gogoi said that the ‘lady politician’ did not have her facts right as he did not decide the case against him. Gogoi said that he had handed over the file to Justice Bobde, who was the next senior judge then, who in turn constituted the enquiry panel as per the in-house procedure.

System needs to be robust; Roadmap needed

During the session lasting over thirty minutes, Gogoi spoke about the need to have a “roadmap” to overhaul the judicial system.

“You want a 5 trillion dollar economy but you have a ramshackled judiciary”, he commented. When the productivity of all institutions and organizations went down in 2020 due to the pandemic, the judiciary “succeeded” in adding its case arrears, he said with a tone of sarcasm. According to him, 60 lakh cases were added at the subordinate level, 3 lakhs in High Court and nearly seven thousand in the Supreme Court in the pandemic affected year.

“The road map is…have the right man for the job. You don’t appoint judges as you appoint officers in the government. To judge is a full time commitment. It is a passion. There are no working hours. It is a 24/7 job. You wake up at 2 o clock in the morning, remember a point, and jot it down. That is how a judge works. How many people understand this?”, he said.

Speaking about the need to impart right training in the judicial academies, he said :

“When you appoint a judge, train him up. He needs to be constantly reminded…When u go to the National Judicial Academy at Bhopal, what is being taught?Laws of the seas, laws of the oceans…nothing about judicial ethics, nothing about how to write judgments, nothing about how to conduct court proceedings.”

Next, he commented on the commercial courts system and arbitration.

“System has not worked. If you want a thriving economy, you must have a forum to decide commercial disputes. Nobody is going to invest unless you have a robust system. Where is the mechanism? Commercial Courts Act has brought within its purview every conceivable commercial disputes. But who is applying the law?The same judge doing the normal work.

Speaking about arbitration – the award passed by the CJI is questioned before a district judge. What does the poor fellow do? He sits on it. Then there is an appeal to HC, appeal to SC. So the whole thing of arbitration not going to court not working”.

Calling upon his brother judges to draw a ‘road map’, he said :

“The efficacy of the system need serious serious consideration so that it becomes a vibrant one”

Rajya Sabha seat not a bargain for Ayodhya and Rafale judgments

Gogoi refuted the allegation that his nomination to the Rajya Sabha was a quid pro quo for delivering judgments favouring the BJP government’s position in Rafale and Ayodhya cases.

If there was such a bargain actually, would anyone settle for a Rajya Sabha seat, he asked rhetorically.

“I thought i will do some constructive work in the Rajya Sabha. If I were to look for something, would I look for a Rajya Sabha seat?

Give this much credit to a man who has written these judgments that if he wants to bargain, he will make a good bargain. Give me this much credit. Rajya Sabha is not a good bargain. If there had been a bargain, there would have been something bigger, not the Rajya Sabha seat”, he claimed, adding that this was a “worthless topic”.

When the anchor asked how will he tackle the growing perception that his nomination to the upper house was a return favour, Gogoi made an appeal to his own conscience.

“I don’t have to tackle anything. I have to tackle only my conscience. My conscience is clear. No amount of what other perceive bothers me”.

He added that he has not taken even a single penny from the Parliament and has given in writing that he will not draw any remuneration for his Rajya Sabha term. He complained that the media and critics were not discussing this aspect.

Judges should not succumb to media attacks

He commented that media outlets and web portals attempted to “cow down” judges and that judges succumbing to such attacks was a “real threat”.

“What is this attack, does a judge or a former judge get cowed down by attacks? Will he ever be able to function if he is afraid of being attacked while in office or after office?”, he added.

Public praise of Prime Minister should have been avoided

When the anchor sought his views about a Supreme Court judge(Justice MR Shah) publicly praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a recent public event, Gogoi replied:

“The learned judge should not have made that statement. If he had great admiration for the Prime Minister, it should have remained with him. Beyond that I cannot answer anything”.

However Gogoi added that the mere fact that such a public praise was made does not indicate ‘quid pro quo’.

NRC a document for future

Fielding questions about the Assam NRC process, Gogoi said that he has no regrets in investing time and energy in the case, although the parties which were demanding it are not enthusiastic about the final NRC list published in August 2019.

Justice Gogoi had led the Supreme Court bench which set the time frame to complete the Assam NRC process.

“Court can only do so much and has done it. (I have) No regrets. It(NRC) is a document for future. Analyze it. What is wrong with NRC?Implement it”, he said.

He criticized that the political parties were playing a “big game” with NRC without showing the actual will to implement it.

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