New Delhi: CJI-designate Ranjan Gogoi on Monday said people are divided “more than ever” along the lines of caste, religion and ideology and what one should wear, eat or say are no longer insignificant questions about personal life.
He asserted that beliefs must be constantly evaluated on the touchstone of constitutional morality, which must prevail when there arises any doubt or conflict, and said this is true patriotism to the Constitution. Justice Gogoi was speaking at an event organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to bid farewell to incumbent Chief Justice Dipak Misra who retires as Chief Justice of India (CJI) Tuesday.
He brushed aside the claims that the system has not fared well and said that despite odds, a number of judges are committed to the cause. Justice Gogoi, who was among the four senior-most judges who had in January virtually revolted against the Chief Justice Misra over various issues including assigning of cases in the apex court has, however, praised the outgoing CJI for an illustrious career.
“As a judge, his greatest contribution to Indian jurisprudence has been on issues of Constitutional significance particularly with regard to civil liberties,” Justice Gogoi said.
Justice Gogoi, who will sworn-in as the 46 the Chief Justice on Wednesday said, lamented that the very issues which give a different identity to a community make its people hate those who are different.
“We are divided perhaps more than ever, by lines of caste, class, gender religion and ideology. We are divided into infinitely relegated communities which crisscross along such lines to give us our special identity. What we should wear, what we should eat, what we should say, read and think — these are no longer small and insignificant questions about our personal life,” he said.
“However, even if they give us identity and purpose and enrich the greatness of our democracy, these are issues that cut and divide us and they can make us hate and despise those who are different,” he said.
He said the challenge was to construct and protect the common world view that “unifies us as a community” and such a shared vision can be found in the Constitution.
“Doubtlessly in our Constitution and therefore arguing for creation of a community of constitutional values. Belonging to this community does not mean that we must give up who we are our personal beliefs, and tastes. Instead it means we must constantly evaluate these beliefs on the touchstone of constitutional morality. Where ever there is doubt and conflict, we must allow constitutional morality to prevail. This is the true patriotism to the constitution,” he said.
On criticism about judiciary’s performance, Justice Gogoi, who had on Saturday said that he has plans to deal with the issues faced by the judiciary, said the system has done well.
“Truth lies somewhere in between. Its not inadequacies and abberations that make the system. As chief justice designate let me show you. There is a lot to look ahead, a lot to look forward. System has done well. In spite of odds we have a lot of committed judges committed to the cause and they will continue to be committed regardless of the inadequacies in terms of remuneration, in spite of the possibilities of abuse of their names,” Justice Gogoi said.
“We don’t have to be alarmed of that. It comes with the system,” he added.
Justice Gogoi also said that profound constitutional questions can rarely be separated from the politically resilient issues of the times.
“In fact it is precisely times like this that the resilience of our commitment are tested. I am taking the liberty to say our commitment. Because you and I are already part of this community. We do not think that the Constitution text has ready-made answers but we do believe that it offers the principles and procedure to construct new answers suitable to our times,” he said.
Lauding Misra’s contribution, he said, “I am sure that generations of academics and judges will continue to engage with his scholarship long after we are gone. It is for this reason I do not bid farewell to Justice Misra today but chose instead to celebrate the vision expressed in his judicial opinions.”
Justice Gogoi pointed out the various judgement pronounced by Justice Misra namely on the issues of mob lynching, honour killings, Shafin Jahan case and others and said that individual liberties is a recurring motive in CJI’s judicial opinions.
“In common cause the choice extended to ending one’s own life as an expression of dignity,” Justice Gogoi said adding that Justice Misra has also supported women’s right to equality.
He said that under the “able stewardship” of Justice Misra, the Supreme Court managed to not only “manoeuvre difficult legal questions” but also urge society to “think progressively” through Constitution. He said that the Constitution must be popularised along with its history, pre-history, agreements and disagreements and said that it must be taught to the younger generations.
“We must teach to our young not as a static body of norms but as an evolving mode of collective as well as individual actions and expressions. What we need to strive for is a changed world view that abides by Constitutionalism,” he said.