Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi's nomination for a Rajya Sabha seat has been vehemently criticized by several retired judges, who have expressed deep concern over the message it is sending. Most agreed that it poses a grave risk to the independence of the judiciary and would shake the common man's faith in the institution.
The nomination - made in a first, by President Ram Nath Kovind - was announced last evening by the Union Home Ministry. Justice Gogoi said his presence in parliament will "be an opportunity to project the views of the judiciary before the legislative and vice versa".
"Let me first take oath, then I will speak in detail to the media why I accepted this...," Ranjan Gogoi told reporters.
"I was shocked and then I thought about the message it will send," Justice (Retired) AP Shah told NDTV.
"The message it sends to the judiciary as a whole is that if you give judgments that are favourable to the executive, you will be rewarded. If you don't do so, you will be treated adversely or you might be transferred or not considered for elevation," he said.
Calling it a "death knell for the separation of powers and independence of judiciary," Justice Shah said while previously Justices Ranganath Mishra and Baharul Islam were also made part of the Rajya Sabha, the context in this case is different.
After his retirement in 1991, former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra had joined the Congress and became a Member of Parliament in 1998. Former Justice Baharul Islam - a Rajya Sabha MP before being nominated as a Judge of the Gauhati High Court and eventually a Supreme Court judge - went back to Rajya Sabha, resigning his post.
Justice Shah said both appointments were made after the ADM Jabalpur case and it took the judiciary 15 years to "return to its former glory". Considered a black mark on the judiciary, the Supreme Court had ruled in the case that during a presidential order of Emergency, the courts cannot guarantee individual liberty.
"Chief Justice Gogoi is only the latest in the line of questionable leadership in the Supreme court," he said, drawing attention to the decisions and judicial processes adopted by the former Chief Justice and specifically mentioning the issues involving electoral bonds and habeas corpus cases from Jammu and Kashmir.
Justice Kurian Joseph, who along with Justice Gogoi, was among the judges who held the unprecedented press conference to flag a "threat to this foundation", said the former Chief Justice has "compromised the noble principles on the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary".
"According to me, the acceptance of nomination as member of Rajya Sabha by a former Chief Justice of India, has certainly shaken the confidence of the common man on the independence of judiciary, which is also one of the basic structures of the Constitution of India," he said.