Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has paved the ways for several agendas and political issues for the Modi government. He has given judgments that have favourable outcomes for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party. And in return, he has been considered with deliberate commissions. Gogoi is currently a nominated Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. He was the first former CJI to become a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha on March 16 last year.
Amid an uproar of prejudice and distortion, Gogoi has notably dismissed many cases that benefitted the Modi government. Let’s take a look at the list of cases:
Gogoi’s most significant judgment was in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in November 2019. He led a bench that sought an end to a decades-old dispute over the ownership of a plot in Ayodhya. Barely ten days before he had to retire when he granted the disputed land to the Hindu parties, which paved the way for the construction of the Ram Mandir, a key agenda for BJP’s Hindu nationalist politics.
While Hindus claim that the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, Muslims consider it a mosque, as it held Babri masjid until it was brought down by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992.
In its judgment, the court ordered the disputed land to infant deity ‘Ram Lalla’ while decreeing the central and state government to allocate an alternative five-acre plot to construct a mosque in Ayodhya. The centre was asked to set up a trust within three months to help build the Ram Mandir. The Modi government formed the trust three days before the Delhi assembly polls, for which the BJP hosted a deeply polarising campaign.
Rafale deal review
Another bench led by former Justice Gogoi had given a clean chit to the PM Modi government over allegations of irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation. The court discharged a batch of review petitions that sought an inquiry into the purchase.
The bench had charged criminal contempt proceedings against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for wrongly imputing remarks of “chowkidar chor hai,” targeting PM Modi in links with the Rafale case, to the apex court. Later these charges were dropped, and Gandhi was asked to be careful in the future.
Sexual harassment case
On April 19, a junior court assistant at the Supreme Court of India wrote to 22 judges, alleging that former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had sexually harassed her at his office residence on October 10 and 11, 2018.
In her complaint, she alleged while working in the office of CJI in October 2018, she was sexually harassed and was told by the judge not to reveal it to anyone. However, the allegations were denied by CJI as “absolutely false and scurrilous.”
Israeli-Spyware Pagesus targeted a list of smartphones of over 300 people in India, including the name of the junior staffer, who had accused the former CJI of sexual harassment. Around April 2019, 11 verified phone numbers of the woman complainant and her family members targeted with the spyware, the same time when the woman staffer had made allegations against the former CJI, The Wire said in a report.
Kashmir habeas corpus
Following Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370, (special status given to Jammu & Kashmir), Gogoi was criticized for handling two habeas corpus pleas.
One was filed by Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist), seeking to produce Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, former party MLA from Kashmir, before the Supreme Court.
Another was filed by a law student, Mohammad Aleem Sayed, against the illegal detention of his parents in Anantnag. He demanded that the officials produce his family before the court.
A bench headed by former CJI, did not regard whether the detentions were legal. Instead, it granted permission to both Yechury and Syed to visit Kashmir to meet their family and friends.
The court’s orders drew considerable criticism from several zones over the alleged delay and its refusal to produce the people in question, which was seen as a loss of the very purpose of habeas corpus petitions.
The seeds of the National Register of Citizens (NRC)
Justice Gogoi was also a part of the bench that directed the National Register of Citizens (NRC) implementation in Assam from December 2014 until it was finalised in August 2019. The implementation of NRC in Assam aroused from a political demand to force immigrants without documents out of the state.
The NRC, however, excluded 19.06 lakh people, several Bengali Hindus, provoking flak of the exercise, including BJP. It has set the stage for the ruling BJP to bring in the Citizenship Amendment Act to ease the citizenship process for non-Muslim minorities from three Muslim-majority countries and introduce a nationwide NRC.
Ranjan Gogoi was part of several decisions that have been seen to work out in Modi government’s favour one way or another.