New Delhi: The central government on Monday clarified its stand on appointment of Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the next Chief Justice of India (CJI), saying there is no reason to doubt its intention.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, speaking at a press briefing, said that the convention requires the sitting CJI to first send the name.
"Let me first say that this question about appointment (of Justice Gogoi as CJI) is hypothetical. There is a convention in place. The sitting CJI has to forward the name of his successor. Let that name come first," said Prasad.
He further asserted: "There is no reason to doubt our intentions."
Prasad was speaking in the national capital at an event to highlight achievements of the Modi government in the last four years.
Questions over Justice Gogoi's appointment as next CJI have emerged following the unprecedented press conference of the four most senior judges in January this year wherein sitting CJI Dipak Misra was criticised over administrative issues, especially manner of allocation of cases to certain selective benches.
Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph addressed this unparalleled event in the judicial history of India.
Justice Gogoi had then said that the four judges were before the people's court because they wanted to discharge their debt to the nation.
Under the existing convention, it is the incumbent CJI who forwards the name of his successor to the government. It is usually the most senior judge who is recommended for appointment as the new CJI but the recommendation has to be forwarded only and only by the incumbent.
Thus, the questions arose if Justice Misra will send the name of Justice Gogoi after the latter has publicly criticised him.
At an event recently, when Justice Chelameswar was asked this question, the judge said he hoped Justice Gogoi would not be passed over and if he were to be denied the chiefship, this would be proof that what the four judges had said in their January 12-press conference was “true”.
Supercession of judges in the Supreme Court has only one instance in the past.
During the emergency era, Indira Gandhi-government made Justice AN Ray as the CJI after superceding three senior judges of the Supreme Court - J M Shelat, A N Grover and K S Hegde.
This was viewed as a direct attack on the independence of judiciary and has often been called by legal stalwarts as the blackest day in Indian democracy.