Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is all set to retire on November 17. But before he vacates the office, he has less than 10 working days left and at least five major judgments to deliver. Justice Gogoi took over as the 46th CJI on October 3, 2018. Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, the senior-most judge after Justice Gogoi, will succeed him. President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday signed a warrant paving the way for him to take over the top post after CJI Gogoi retires. Justice Bobde will be sworn in as Chief Justice on November 18 and will serve the post for around 18 months. The President will administer the oath of office and secrecy to him. He will retire on April 23, 2021.
Justice Gogoi, who has headed benches dealing with important cases, has a busy last few days in office. From the Ayodhya dispute to the Rafale case, here are 5 major judgments likely to be delivered by CJI Ranjan Gogoi before he demits office:
The most awaited judgment among the five is the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhooni-Babri Masjid title dispute case. The hearing in the case was wrapped up on October 16 by the Constitution bench after a marathon 40 hearings. All eyes are now set on the CJI-headed Constitution bench that will deliver the verdict. If the CJI delivers the judgment before he vacates the office, it would bring the curtains down on a nearly three-decades-old case. If the CJI decides not to deliver the judgment, the next CJI would have to hear them afresh. This could again delay the matter for an unspecified period.
A total of 14 pleas were filed in the apex court against the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court to bifurcate the 2.77 acres of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land among the three parties — Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and Sunni Waqf Board.
The CJI is expected to deliver the judgment on a battery of review petitions contesting its September 2018 order to lift the ban on entry of menstruating women inside the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. As per the centuries-old tradition, the locals argue that women of age group between 10 and 50 are barred from worshiping Lord Ayyappa because it brings bad luck. The top court had in its September 2018 majority judgment lifted the ban on the entry of women inside the temple. The decision had triggered widespread protests in the state. A total of 65 petitions were filed in the court contesting the authority of the court to intervene in a centuries-old belief.
Rafale deal case
In May this year, a special bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its verdict on a batch of review petitions in the Rafale deal case. The Supreme Court had in December 2018 cleared the deal and observed that the set defence procurement procedures were followed by the government while signing the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The pleas were filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and others. They claimed corruption in the deal and demanded a probe by the CBI in the matter.
Criminal contempt against Rahul Gandhi
The Supreme Court had in May this year also reserved its order on BJP leader and New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi’s criminal contempt plea against then Congress president Rahul Gandhi for using derogatory remarks directed at PM Narendra Modi. Lekhi had alleged that Rahul wrongfully attributed the phrase ‘chowkidar chor hai’ to the Supreme Court. However, the Congress leader had unconditionally apologised for wrongly attributing it to the court. During a press briefing, Rahul had made the controversial remark while reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow maintainability of the review petitions in the Rafale case.
In April this year, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Finance Act 2017. The petitioners argued that it was passed by Parliament as a Money Bill. They had also alleged that the government was taking over the powers to decide the terms and conditions of tribunal members, including their tenure. The verdict is expected to be pronounced before the incumbent CJI demits office.