In his speech in Vigyan Bhawan on the occasion of Constitution Day, CJI Gogoi said that to preserve democracy the constitutional liberties must be safeguarded. He also quoted John Stuart Mill who said that we must not lay our liberties even at the feet of a great man, and he followed this homily by adding that we must heed the advice of the Constitution otherwise there will be a sharp descent into chaos.
Very inspiring words indeed, but if only they came from one who practices what he preaches.
When the occasion came to show his great regard for liberty in the case of Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, whose only ‘crime’ was that he tweeted a satirical comment on the Konark temple, for which too he shortly thereafter apologised, Gogoi, presiding over a bench, summarily dismissed the bail plea, ignoring the settled principle laid down by the celebrated Justice Krishna Iyer in State of Rajasthan vs Balchand ( see online ), and followed in several decisions of the Supreme Court ( the latest being of Justice Lokur, the next in seniority to Gogoi, in Dataram Singh vs State of UP ) that bail, not jail, was the normal rule, unless the accused was likely to tamper with the evidence or abscond or was involved in a grave offence like murder, dacoity or gang rape, which Abhijit was not. And this denial of bail was accompanied with the flippant and cruel remark that the accused was safest in jail. Since then Abhijit has been rotting in jail.
In Ghani vs Jones (1970) 1 Q.B. 693 the legendary Lord Denning observed ” A man’s liberty of movement is regarded so highly by the laws of England that it is not to be hindered or prevented except on the surest grounds “, an observation which was quoted with approval by the 7 Judge Constitution Bench decision of the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India ( see online ), thus making it the law of the land in India too.
This is how Justice Gogoi preserves democracy and safeguards the constitutional liberties of citizens, and how he heeds ‘ the advice of the Constitution ‘ ( particularly Article 21 ) and prevents the sharp descent of the country into chaos.
In the petition of Rohingya refugees Gogoi practically made the case infructuous by denying an early hearing before deportation of the petitioners to Myanmar, where they would be in danger of being killed. And when the counsel of the petitioners Prashant Bhushan said that unless the case was heard soon the lives of the petitioners would be in danger, which it was the duty of the Court to protect, Gogoi snapped ” Dont tell us our duty “.
In the CBI case Gogoi cast insinuations against the portal thewire.in for not being responsible, and shouted at the counsels ” None of you deserve to be heard ” though counsel for Alok Verma, Fali Nariman later revealed that thewire had done nothing wrong.
Some control over your temper, balance, restraint, and respect for Article 21 needed My Lord, if you are serious about preserving democracy and the constitutional liberties, and saving the country from a sharp descent into chaos.