Justice Ranjan Gogoi became the 46th Chief Justice of India, the first from the northeast to take over the post, on Wednesday as he replaced justice Dipak Misra.
President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office to the 63-year-old Justice Gogoi during a brief ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Darbar Hall. Justice Gogoi will have a tenure of a little over 13 months and is set to retire on November 17, 2019.
Justice Gogoi has said he wants to focus on dealing with the rising backlog of cases clogging up the courts and providing access to justice to the poor.
“Two things are troubling me–pendency of case, which brings in a lot of disrepute to courts, and providing justice to poverty-stricken population,” justice Gogoi said last week in his keynote address in New Delhi at an interactive session on the “Role of Bar and Bench in Social Engineering,” organised by the Youth Bar Association of India.
“In civil cases, parties get relief after two or three generations. I have a plan to tackle it and request everyone’s support,” he said on an increasing number of civil cases that add to pendency.
Justice Gogoi, who is from Assam, began his legal career in 1978 as an advocate in the Gauhati high court. In 2001, he was appointed as a judge in Gauhati high court. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2012 from the Punjab and Haryana high court, where he was the chief justice for almost a year.
He created a stir as a Supreme Court judge in 2016 when he issued a contempt notice against a retired judge of the court, justice Markandeya Katju. In a Facebook post, Katju had criticised the top court’s verdict in the 2011 Soumya rape-and-murder case.
The court had held the accused guilty of the rape but not the murder of the 23-year-old woman who was travelling in a passenger train from Ernakulam to Shornur.
That judgment was authored by a bench headed by Gogoi. Justice Katju appeared in the court of Gogoi and apologised for the Facebook post, thereby ending the matter.
Justice Gogoi has also been hearing the contentious National Register of Citizens (NRC) case in Assam. It is on the orders of Justice Gogoi that the NRC for Assam has been prepared.
Justice Gogoi was also a part of the extraordinary January 11 press conference called by the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. Issues pertaining to the administration of the top court and allocation of cases to junior judges by the CJI were raised at the press conference.
Justice Gogoi’s decision to take part in the press conference was seen as a bold move in legal circles, as he was in line to be the next CJI and his chances for the appointment could have been jeopardised.