The Independence of the Indian Judiciary is put under question by certain acts done by the officials and Government at power. One such incidence is of the recently appointed Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, as a member of the Rajya Sabha, announced by the President of India Mr. Ramnath Kovind who by exercising the power granted to him under Article 80(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, appointed the Former CJI as one of the “eminent members” of the Rajya Sabha. This power enables the President to nominate 12 members to the Rajya Sabha in accordance with the provisions of Section 80(3) and these persons shall be persons having special knowledge or practical experience in various fields such as sports, literature, art, science, and social service. This appointment raises serious questions more due to the fact that just before his retirement, CJI Gogoi was involved in some of the crucial decision making such as the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi case, the Rafale deal, etc. The Former CJI has been under the limelight for these decisions as well as for hearing the case in which he was the one accused charged for sexual harassment of a woman. Moreover, the Obiter dicta of Gogoi – “There is a viewpoint that post-retirement appointment is itself a scar on the judicial independence of the Judiciary. In fact, this is a valid and strong point.” - Is in absolute contravention of his act of accepting the post as a member of the Rajya Sabha within 6 months of his retirement.
This kind of behavior is usually affiliated with ‘accepting favors’ from the Government in return for helping them with something. Previously also, CJI Rajnath Mishra accepted the position of the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission after getting retired in the year 1991 and eventually becoming a member of the Rajya Sabha on the Indian National Congress’s ticket. Former Chief Justice of Bombay, Justice M.C. Chagla was initially appointed as the US Ambassador then the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom thereafter he was appointed as the Education Minister and eventually the Minister of External Affairs when Pt. Nehru was the P.M. After the retirement of Justice P. Sathasivam, he was appointed as the Governor of Kerala under the BJP lead Government in the year 2014. There is nothing wrong with achieving a position based upon the personal capabilities and goodwill of a person but all these instances have one thing in common that is the immediate appointment to higher positions which showcases a gift in return for the favors done by these persons for the people in power. The appointment of the Former CJI Gogoi as a member of the Rajya Sabha is open to numerous views and opinions as no factual findings have been proved against him to date.
In my opinion, the Independence of the Indian Judiciary is at stake as firstly, the maxim- Nemo judex in causa sua which implies that no person can be a judge in his own cause has been exploited to its very core when Mr. Gogoi sat in the hearing of the sexual harassment case against himself comprising of an in-house committee and overall a bench of 3 Supreme Court judges. Herein, a clean chit was given to the Justice, without even caring to share the details of the report with the complainant showcasing utter misuse of power. Secondly, by being a judge in matters of utmost concern and helping the Government in reaching solutions, it is evident that the Judiciary in India is not independent of the Legislature and cannot take on the Government on matters demanding critical determination. Thirdly, the acceptance of the position as a member of the Rajya Sabha by Mr. Gogoi points out the diminishing moral structure of the Indian Judiciary as the acceptance of the offer does not fully commensurate with the dignity of the office held by the Chief Justice of India.
As per the powers provided under the Constitution of India, the members of the Judiciary are considered to be the backbone of justice in India. It is the first and foremost duty of the officials to ensure impartial and fair delivery of justice to all citizens of India irrespective of their caste, class, or socio-economic background. Only due to this role, the Constitution of India has come up with the Independence of the Judiciary so that it is easy for the members to impart impartial delivery of justice and accomplish the constitutional goals without the fear of anyone. But, situations like these that showcase the involvement of the legislature or the executive with the functioning of the Judiciary tend to divert the focus upon the working and eventually the outcome of the judicial activities. The involvement of external interference in matters requiring crucial decision-making not only erodes the piousness and impartiality of the profession but also deprives the individuals of the rights granted to them on being citizens of India under the Indian Constitution. Therefore, it can be said that the early retirement of judges and their appointment at various political posts after retirement raises questions that demand immediate action.