Ranjan Gogoi

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Ranjan Gogoi
Hon'ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi.jpg
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
Assumed office
19 March 2020
Nominated byRam Nath Kovind
Appointed byMuppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu
Preceded byK. T. S. Tulsi
ConstituencyNominated
46th Chief Justice of India
In office
3 October 2018 – 17 November 2019
Appointed byRam Nath Kovind
Preceded byDipak Misra
Succeeded bySharad Arvind Bobde
Judge of Supreme Court of India
In office
23 April 2012 – 2 October 2018
Nominated byS. H. Kapadia
Appointed byPrathiba Patil
Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court
In office
12 February 2011 – 23 April 2012
Nominated byS. H. Kapadia
Appointed byPratibha Patil
Preceded byMukul Mudgal
Succeeded byAdarsh Kumar Goel (acting)
Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court
In office
9 September 2010 – 11 February 2011
Nominated byS. H. Kapadia
Appointed byPratibha Patil
Judge of Gauhati High Court
In office
28 February 2001 – 8 September 2010 [1]
Nominated byAdarsh Sein Anand
Appointed byK. R. Narayanan
Personal details
Born (1954-11-18) 18 November 1954 (age 66)
Dibrugarh, Assam, India[2]
Spouse(s)Rupanjali Gogoi
Children2[3][4]
MotherShanti Gogoi
FatherKesab Chandra Gogoi[5]
Alma materFaculty of Law, University of Delhi
OccupationJustice

Ranjan Gogoi (born 18 November 1954)[6] is a nominated Indian Parliamentarian and a former Judge in the Supreme Court of India who served as the 46th Chief Justice of India for 13 months between 2018 and 2019.[7] He was nominated to Rajya Sabha by President Ram Nath Kovind on 16 March 2020.[8] He is the third Supreme Court justice to serve in the Rajya Sabha, and the first to be nominated to his seat, after Ranganath Mishra and Baharul Islam, who were elected as members of the Indian National Congress.[9] The nomination by government and acceptance was highly criticized by former judges of the Supreme Court.[10]

Early life and career[edit]

Ranjan Gogoi was born in a Tai-Ahom family with family residence at the K.C. Gogoi Path in Dibrugarh.[11] Along with paternal family, the royal family of Tai-Ahom Chao Pha Purandar Singha can be traced back from his mother's side.[12] His father is Kesab Chandra Gogoi, an Indian National Congress politician who served as Chief Minister of Assam for two months in 1982. His mother is Shanti Gogoi (1934-2021) a social activist and writer.[13] Gogoi attended Don Bosco school in Dibrugarh and Cotton College (currently known as Cotton University) in Guwahati before moving to Delhi to complete his higher studies. He then studied at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, graduating with honours in history, before attending Faculty of Law, University of Delhi where he received a law degree.[14][15][16]

His brother Anjan Gogoi ex-Air Marshal of Indian Air Force admitted this information in an interview to the Times of India.[17]

Gogoi enrolled at the bar in 1978, and practiced at the Gauhati High Court, where he was made a Permanent Judge on 28 February 2001. He was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 9 September 2010, becoming its Chief Justice on 12 February 2011. On 23 April 2012, he was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court.[18][19]

On 3 October 2018, he was appointed as Chief Justice of India, succeeding Dipak Misra.[20]

President Ram Nath Kovind administering the oath of office to Justice Ranjan Gogoi, as Chief Justice of India, at a swearing-in ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on October 03, 2018

He was nominated as Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha on 16 March 2020 by President Ram Nath Kovind and took oath on 19 March 2020.[21]

He is one of the 63 individuals in India under the Z plus security cover provided by the Central Reserve Police Force.[22][23]

Significant judgments and orders[edit]

On arbitration[edit]

A judicial bench comprising Gogoi and R. Banumathi observed that the absence of arbitration agreement he introduced new laws, the court can only refer parties to arbitration with written consent of the parties. This could be only be by a joint memorandum or application, not oral consent given by counsel.[24]

On re-assessment of income of Amitabh Bachchan[edit]

In May 2016, a bench comprising Gogoi and Prafulla C. Pant quashed a 2012 Bombay High Court order that dismissed CIT's power to re-assess the income of Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan that he allegedly had obtained from the popular TV show, Kaun Banega Crorepati.

In October 2002, Bachchan filed returns showing income of Rs 14.99 crore for the tax assessment year 2002-03. On 31 March 2003, he filed revised returns, declaring total income for that year in which he claimed expenses at 30% ad hoc amounting to Rs 6.31 crore, showing his income at Rs 8.11 crore. In March 2005, the Income Tax Department determined his income at Rs 56.41 crore for the year.[25][26][27]

Dismissal of petition seeking a Special Investigation Team probe[edit]

Led by Gogoi, on 24 January 2018 the Supreme Court dismissed Advocate Kamini Jaiswal's petition seeking a Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigation of attacks on Kanhaiya Kumar, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union leader, on 15 and 17 February 2016 at Patiala House Court while he was escorted to courtroom in a sedition case.[28]

On Govindaswamy vs State of Kerala[edit]

23-year-old Soumya, an employee of a Kochi shopping mall, was assaulted by one Govindaswamy in an empty ladies' coach of Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train on 1 February 2011. She was allegedly pushed off from the slow-moving train, carried to a wooded area and subsequently raped. She succumbed to injuries at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thrissur, on 6 February 2011. Govindaswamy was sentenced to death for murder by a trial court and the order was upheld by Kerala High Court on 17 December 2013.

On 15 September 2016, the Apex Court Bench comprising Gogoi, Pant and Uday Umesh Lalit set aside the death penalty and sentenced Govindaswamy to a maximum of life imprisonment for rape and other offences of causing bodily injuries.

However, to hold that the accused is liable under Section 302 IPC what is required is an intention to cause death or knowledge that the act of the accused is likely to cause death. The intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position, according to P.W. 64, was for the purposes of the sexual assault. The requisite knowledge that in the circumstances such an act may cause death, also, cannot be attributed to the accused, inasmuch as, the evidence of P.W. 64 itself is to the effect that such knowledge and information is, in fact, parted with in the course of training of medical and para-medical staff. The fact that the deceased survived for a couple of days after the incident and eventually died in Hospital would also clearly militate against any intention of the accused to cause death by the act of keeping the deceased in a supine position. Therefore, in the totality of the facts discussed above, the accused cannot be held liable for injury no.2. Similarly, in keeping the deceased in a supine position, intention to cause death or knowledge that such actions may cause death, cannot be attributed to the accused. We are, accordingly, of the view that the offence under Section 302 IPC cannot be held to be made out against the accused so as to make him liable therefor. Rather, we are of the view that the acts of assault, etc. attributable to the accused would more appropriately attract the offence under Section 325 IPC. We accordingly find the accused-appellant guilty of the said offence and sentence him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for commission of the same... ...While the conviction under Section 376 IPC, Section 394 read with Section 397 IPC and Section 447 IPC and the sentences imposed for commission of the said offences are maintained, the conviction under Section 302 IPC is set aside...[29]

Following the judgement of setting aside the death sentence of the accused in the said Govindaswamy vs State Of Kerala case, Justice Rajan Gogoi and his bench were severely criticized by members of the public, members of the media, political leaders including Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, Law Minister of Kerala, A.K. Balan, Senior CPI(M) leader V. S. Achuthanandan, and jurists including Supreme Court lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj and Supreme Court Justice (retd) Markandey Katju. In a blog entry on 17 September, retired judge Markandey Katju described the Supreme Court's verdict as a "grave error" not expected of "judges who had been in the legal world for decades". He criticised the Bench for believing "hearsay evidence" that Soumya jumped off the train instead of being pushed out by Govindaswamy:

Even a student of law in a law college knows this elementary principle that hearsay evidence is inadmissible.[30][31]

In response, the SC bench led by Justice Rajan Gogoi decided to convert that blog by Justice Markandey Katju into a review petition and asked him to personally appear in court to debate.[32] On 11 November 2016, he appeared in the court and submitted his arguments. The Court then dictated the order rejecting the review petition and issued contempt of court notice to him stating that "Prima facie, the statements made seem to be an attack on the Judges and not on the judgment".[33][34][35] On 6 January 2017, the Supreme Court accepted Katju's apology and closed the contempt proceedings against him.[36]

On people who are originally inhabitants of the state of Assam[edit]

On 5 December 2017, while disposing of a Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1020 of 2017, Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha & Others Versus Union of India & Others clubbed with similar other petitions seeking clarification as to the meaning of people who are originally inhabitants of the state of Assam, a term which appears in a schedule to the Citizenship (Registration Of Citizens And Issue Of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 pertaining to special provision as to manner of preparation of National Register of Indian Citizen in state of Assam, the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi & Rohinton Fali Nariman observed that

The exercise of upgradation of NRC is not intended to be one of identification and determination of who are original inhabitants of the State of Assam..... Citizens who are originally inhabitants/residents of the State of Assam and those who are not are at par for inclusion in the NRC.[37]

The National Register of Indian Citizens or in short the NRC, at its root, comprises all the Local Registers of Indian Citizens containing details of Indian citizens usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card) Rules, 2003 were amended in November 2009 and March 2010 for preparation of National Register of Citizens by inviting applications from all the residents in Assam for updation of the old National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 in Assam based on relevant records. In order to undertake updating of NRC in all districts of Assam, pilot projects for updating of NRC in two blocks (one each in Kamrup and Barpeta districts) were started in June 2010. Subsequently, pilot projects were stopped due to law and order problems.[38] A second attempt to update the register for Assam was made by the Government of India through issuing a Gazette Notification in December 2013.

On 17 December 2014, the bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi & Rohinton Fali Nariman mandated the Government of India to complete the finalization of final updated NRC for the entire state of Assam by 1 January 2016.[39][40]

Ayodhya dispute[edit]

On 9 November 2019, Ranjan Gogoi and four other Supreme Court judges (Justices Sharad Arvind Bobde, Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer) pronounced the verdict regarding the Ayodhya Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case.[41] After 40 days of daily hearings from 6 August, the five-judge bench unanimously decided in favour of awarding the land to the Hindu side to build a rama temple in the place where the controversial mosque stood and was demolished by karsewaks earlier.

This was his last case before retirement on 17 November 2019.

Member of Rajya Sabha[edit]

Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by President Ram Nath Kovind.[42] On 19 March 2020, he took oath of office as a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha in presence of Chairman of Rajya Sabha.[43][44]

External video
video icon "Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi takes oath as Rajya Sabha MP", YouTube, 19 March 2020

Controversies[edit]

2018 Supreme Court crisis[edit]

On 12 January 2018, Ranjan Gogoi and three other Supreme Court judges - Jasti Chelameswar, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph - became the first to hold a press conference. They alleged problems plaguing the court, in terms of failure in the justice delivery system and allocation of cases and told journalists that the press conference was prompted by the issue of allocating to Justice Arun Mishra,[45] the case of the death of special Central Bureau of Investigation, Judge B.H.Loya.[46] Loya, was a special CBI judge who had died in December 2014. Justice Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case of 2004, in which police officers and BJP chief Amit Shah are named. Later, Mishra recused himself from the case.[47] Chelameswar retired on 30 June 2018, leaving Gogoi as the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, followed by Lokur and Joseph.[48] Notwithstanding his seniority ranking, the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, recommended Gogoi as his successor. .[49]

2019 Sexual Harassment Allegations[edit]

In April 2019, Gogoi was accused of sexual harassment by a former Supreme Court employee who filed affidavits stating that the Chief Justice had sexually harassed her on 10–11 October 2018 by pressing his body against hers against her will.[50] Gogoi rejected the allegations and described it as a conspiratorial attempt to hamper the independence of the judiciary.[51]

A three-judge internal investigation committee cleared him, a month later.[52] The proceedings were severely criticized by several eminent activists, personalities from legal fraternity and two retired justices of the Supreme Court, for being opaque, unfair and one-sided, thus violating principles of natural justice.[53][54][55][56][57][58][59][60]

A student Surbhi Karwa, who topped Master of Laws in National Law University, Delhi skipped her convocation to avoid receiving her degree from Gogoi in protest.[61][62] She told Indian Express that 'Everything I learnt in the classroom put me in a moral quandary over the last few weeks on whether I should receive the award from CJI Gogoi. The institution he heads failed when sexual harassment allegations were made against him'.[63] The National Law University Delhi refuted her skipping of convocation as rubbish and as University 'highly perturbed over this instance as it has caused an unnecessary inconvenience to the Chief Justice of India'.[64] The in house committee which quickly cleared Gogoi of sexual harassment was chaired by Justice S A Bobde, who himself succeeded Gogoi as Chief Justice. Following this, the woman complainant stated that she was terrified by the systematic victimisation of her family members who were all dismissed from service following her protest against Gogoi's sexual advances.[65] In June 2019, the husband and brother-in-law were reinstated.[66]

References[edit]

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