A row erupted on Tuesday over the nomination of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha with the Congress and other Opposition parties alleging that the "brazen action" by the government subsumes the independence of the judiciary.
As the opposition parties raised questions, a former Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph expressed surprise and said Gogoi's acceptance of the nomination has shaken the confidence of the common man on the independence of judiciary.
Joseph when asked by newsmen to give his reaction alleged that Gogoi has 'compromised noble principles' on the independence and impartiality of judiciary. Joseph along with Gogoi, J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur had publicly questioned the leadership of the then CJI Dipak Misra in an unprecedented press conference,
Gogoi, who retired in November last year, said he would speak in detail about accepting the nomination after he takes oath.
"Let me first take oath, then I will speak in detail to the media why I accepted this and why I am going to Rajya Sabha," he told reporters in Guwahati.
On the criticism of his nomination, Gogoi told a local television channel in Guwahati, "I have accepted the offer of the nomination to the Rajya Sabha because of a strong conviction that the legislature and judiciary must at some point of time work together for nation-building."
"My presence in Parliament will be an opportunity to project the views of the judiciary before the legislature and vice versa," he said.
"Let God give me the strength to have an independent voice in the parliament", the former CJI said, adding, "I have much to say, but let me take the oath in the parliament and then I shall open up".
The Congress accused the Centre of making a serious assault on the basic structure of the Constitution, saying the action subsumes the independence of the judiciary.
Rajasthan Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said the nomination will erode people's trust in judicial system and cast a doubt upon fairness of judgements delivered.
"Nomination of former CJI Ranjan Gogoi as a Rajya Sabha member by NDA, soon after his retirement is very surprising," Gehlot tweeted.
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said the government should refrain from appointing to the Upper House of Parliament judges who have handled sensitive cases.
Gogoi, who headed benches that pronounced several key judgements including in the sensitive Ayodhya land dispute case, was on Monday nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Centre. He also led the benches that ruled on matters like Rafale fighter jet deal and entry of women in Sabarimala temple.
"By nominating the former CJI to the Rajya Sabha, the Modi government is brazenly undermining the independence of the judiciary and subverting the separation of powers between the organs of the State,
which is an inviolable principle enshrined in our constitutional scheme," the CPI-M said in a statement.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi asked if there is any "quid pro quo" in the nomination of Gogoi.
"How will people have faith in the Independence of Judges ? Many Questions," he tweeted.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the action has hit at the faith and belief that people had on judiciary.
The Congress leader also used the remarks made by late BJP leader Arun Jaitley to attack the government, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have at least heeded to the words of their own leader before making the nomination of the former CJI.
"The Congress Party finds the nomination of a retired Chief Justice to the Rajya Sabha 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 Supreme Court judgments," Singhvi told reporters in Delhi.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also asked whether the prime minister considered the advice of his late law minister before nominating Gogoi.
"Justice Lokur rightly summarises it -: 'Has the last bastion fallen?'," Surjewala said in a tweet.
Singhvi said Modi could have adhered to the advice of Jaitley in this regard. He also highlighted and shared the 2012 remarks of Jaitley on having a cooling off period for judges to head Tribunals.
"Modiji amitshahji hamari nahi to arun Jaitley ki to sun lijiye! Did he not speak and write against post retirement largesse to judges? Do u remember," he said, citing Jaitley's comments.
"Courts function on faith, trust, perception and faith. Each has taken a bad beating today," Singhvi added.