Late Arun Jaitley (L) and ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
Late Arun Jaitley (L) and ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

The Congress on Tuesday flayed the Modi Government for nominating former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha just four months after his retirement, quoting late BJP legal eagle Arun Jaitley that there should be a gap of two years before appointment of a judge "because otherwise the government can directly or indirectly influence the courts and the dream to have an independent, impartial and fair judiciary in the country would never actualise."

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is himself a senior advocate, quoted Jaitley at a Press conference here to assert that Gogoi's nomination is "one of the most serious, unprecedented and unpardonable assaults on the basic structure of the Constitution, which subsumes independence of judiciary as held by the Supreme Court judgments."

Noting that he had written about Gogoi as one of the brightest judges, Singhvi said the former CJI will perhaps himself agree with him about the principle that "the Constitution is based on a separation of power between the judiciary on the one side and the executive and legislature on the other as this is a pillar of our constitutional jurisprudence."

Secondly, he said the judiciary thrives, strengthens, works and prospers on perception, on faith, on belief, on 'aastha', on 'vishwas' and regretfully all of these pillars on which the judiciary stands have taken a beating on Monday. "These pillars matter more than the reality and actuality and when this is shaken in the minds of the public, the institution is decimated."

Even in case of puny bureaucracy, a minimum two years of cooling off period is prescribed before appointment to an important post to snap the nexus if any between the previous incumbency and the newer appointment, Singhvi said.

"What is the time here -- four months? Gogoi retired on November 17 last year and nominated exactly on completion of four months of retirement on March 16. Is this not an invitation to the public to put a question mark on the faith and trust in the judiciary, which is the most important pillar of our democracy," Singhvi asked.

He also blasted the "dirty tricks department" of the ruling party for trying to mislead with three examples of the Congress time to justify Gogoi's nomination to the Rajya Sabha, telling it not to think that "the people of this country eat grass and are ready to be fooled."

He pointed out that late Justice Rangnath Misra had retired as the CJI in 1991 and became a Rajya Sabha member only in 1998. (Singhvi skipped the fact that he was the first chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) before coming to the Rajya Sabha).

Second example cited was that of Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah, who retired as the CJI in December 1970. He never became a Rajya Sabha member but became its Chairman and the Vice-President of India only after nine years in August 1979.

The third example referred by the BJP was of Justice Baharul Islam. Singhvi said Islam was a Rajya Sabha member for 10 years in two terms from 1962 and 1968 as a Congress member. He resigned from the Rajya Sabha in 1972 to become a judge of the Assam and Nagaland High Court. He resigned as a Supreme Court judge in January 1983 and then elected to the Rajya Sabha.

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