“Justice cannot be from one side alone, but must be from both.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
The speculations as to who will be the next Chief Justice of India had arisen in the backdrop of Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s participation in the unprecedented January 12 presser led by former judge Justice J Chelameswar. As Justice Gogoi was one of the four senior judges who went public with a press conference, speculation has gained ground that he could be overlooked when the time would come. Legal experts had aired divergent views on the selection of successor of Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra after the January 12 development. These observations assumed significance in view of a statement of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that the government has no role in the selection of Justice Misra’s successor, which naturally boils down to Justice Gogoi. A constitutional law expert, while referring to the unblemished judicial records of Justice Gogoi, said if he is not recommended for the post of the CJI, then it would amount to supersession as had happened in the 1970s. But ending all speculations the Chief Justice of India Misra, due to retire on October 2, following the established convention and procedure, has named the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court after him — Justice Gogoi — as his successor. Against January 12 backdrop, and in the context of the turbulence, therefore, CJI Misra’s decision to abide by the established convention stands out. The government on Thursday completed all the formalities of appointing Justice Gogoi as the 46th Chief Justice of India. President Ramnath Kovind signed warrants of appointment of Justice Gogoi, and following which a notification announcing his appointment was issued. He would assume office on 3 October after Dipak Misra retirement a day before. Justice Gogoi will have a tenure of a little over 13 months and will retire on 17 November 2019.
It is a proud moment for people of Assam as well as North East as he becomes the first person from the region to hold the top post of the Indian judiciary. Son of former chief minister of Assam, Late Keshab Gogoi, Justice Ranjan Gogoi had enrolled himself as an advocate in the year 1978. He practised in the Gauhati High Court on constitutional, taxation and company matters. He was appointed as a permanent judge of the Gauhati High Court on 28 February 2001. On 9 September 2010, he was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He was appointed Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court on 12 February 2011, and then a judge of the Supreme Court on April 23, 2012. As a senior judge of the apex court, Justice Gogoi has delivered significant judgments including one pertaining to Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), setting up of special courts to exclusively try MPs and MLAs, Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts for the remission of their life sentences and appointment of anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal among others.
Justice Gogoi, who will assume charge as the new CJI on October 3, will have his hands full. The man who drew everyone’s attention recently with his remark, “independent judges and noisy journalists are democracy’s first line of defence”, besides tackling some important cases, will have to take on the specific and special challenges faced by the judiciary. He will have to address the important questions thrown up this year, including one connected with the CJI’s own role in the allocation of cases as “master of the roster”. It will be a significant and important tenure for Justice Gogoi.