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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Gogoi’s RS entry has ‘lobby’ on tenterhooks

Given the avalanche of criticism heaped by the anti-Bharat brigade on ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi in the wake of his Presidential nomination to the Rajya Sabha, it is amply clear that those most rattled by the decision is the cabal of lawyers owing allegiance to the Dynasty and NGO/human rights network.

Better known as the “lobby” in everyday parlance, these are the privileged men and women who pressured, even blackmailed, the higher judiciary, be they justices of high courts or supreme court, to deliver the judgements they wanted during the UPA era. Those refusing to acquiesce were shamed and defamed through their well-oiled network in the national media. Canards were circulated about their personal foibles and failings, and aspersions cast on their integrity.

Quite obviously the way the cookie has crumbled in the six years of the Modi regime has the lobby worried and desperate. They have done their utmost to keep intact their stranglehold over the decision-making process. Midnight hearings of cases were a rarity till 2015. That year in July, barely three hours before the 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Memon was to be executed, his lawyers Anand Grover and Yug Mohit Chaudhary compelled CJI H L Dattu to convene for the first time in the SC’s history a post-midnight hearing for a final plea inside the court premises. The session lasted for 90 minutes — from 3:20 am to 4:50 am – in which the judges reviewed the final petition. This after President Pranab Mukerjee had rejected a 14-page mercy petition filed by Memon on 29 July. Though the plea was rejected, and Yakub Memon executed the next day, the decision to hold a hearing at the eleventh hour for no justifiable reason set a bad precedent. Late-night hearings stretching into dawn at the residence of judges have since become a regularly irregular part of SC affairs.

Seen in retrospect, it is doubtful if Memon’s hanging would have got a last-minute hearing had his lawyer, Anand Grover, not been part of the nefarious lobby. That Grover’s wife, Indira Jai Singh, is part of the same vicious circle, is only too well known. But the lobby’s front line comprises Congress MP Kapil Sibal, Prashant Bhushan, Dushyant Dave, and Sanjay Hegde, the last three being hot favorites of the NGO-Rights checkerboard. Together they leave no stone unturned to sabotage anything in the national interest. These are the men Gogoi alluded to when interviewed by select TV channels. However, the only person he singled out for mention was Kapil Sibal whose reputation for pressurizing judges with roguish impunity is legion. Gogoi revealed how Sibal had tried meeting him at his residence in connection with his plan to get ex-CJI Dipak Misra impeached. Though he refused to name the other members of the lobby, he promised that the identity of the rest would, if necessary, be formally disclosed on the floor of Parliament.

The first sign that the lobby was feeling the heat of the political changes sweeping the country was the joint presser in January 2018 of justices J Chelmeshwar, Madan Lokur, Kurien Joseph, and Gogoi. The combined broadside against Dipak Misra astonished those in the corridors of power. Especially since Misra was seen a loyal upholder of the liberal cause when appointed CJI in August 2017. He was just as trusted by the lobby as any other judge who could be manipulated at will. Four months was all it took for them to fall apart. Only the naïve would believe that the adjudicators of the nation’s highest court would have the chutzpah to do something as professionally untenable as publicize their rift with the CJI before the national media without the lobby’s backing and influence.

Having embarrassed Misra, the lobby hoped their rebellion would serve as a lesson for future CJIs who stepped out of line. Sibal’s efforts to get Misra impeached proved a dud. The conspiracy did not have the slightest effect on him. Misra, in fact, derailed Sibal’s plan to block progress in the Ayodhya case. The Bench led by him restricted the dispute to the title suit and rejected third party interventions, thereby paving the way for his successor to come out with a clear decision.

Gogoi’s appointment as CJI should ordinarily have worked to the lobby’s advantage since he had publicly come out against Misra. That he would show them the thumb is the last thing they expected. It is still not clear why and when Gogoi fell out with the cabal. Clearly evident from his interview with TV anchors is the loathing and contempt he has for them. Such has been their vice like grip over the Bench. Though Gogoi ascribed his decision to accept an RS seat to his reluctance to refuse a call of the duty from the President (“he needed my services”), a burning desire to expose the lobby’s misdeeds on the floor of Parliament was in all probability the real reason. Which is good enough.

Another fancy charge hurled by critics, according to a retired army general, is that Gogoi’s nomination would snap the Code of Omerta (a Sicilian norm among the mafiaosi) under which judges are bound to keep their lips sealed in matters of corruption within their fraternity. This is stuff and nonsense since it has been done on multiple occasions in the past beginning with former law minister Shanti Bhushan’s SC petition in 2010 in which he accused eight former CJIs of graft. The charge was made on the strength of what two CJIs had confided to him on the bribes pocketed by one’s successor, and the other’s predecessor. Another loose-talking former SC judge, Markandey Katju, had told a meeting of lawyers in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2015 that 50 per cent of the higher judiciary was corrupt.

Rooting out graft within the judiciary remains a noble and unaccomplished goal. Much hot air has been blown over the decades. But there is an equal need to expose the rot within the Bar which seeks to exploit the weakness of judges, and blackmail them into submission. Nobody would have more dope on this than Gogoi. This is why he will be an asset to Parliament. It will keep the Congress’ chattering and battering rams like Chidambaram and Sibal on their toes.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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