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Ranjan Gogoi’s legal journey began in Gauhati HC 40 years ago

Ranjan Gogoi who hails from Assam is known to lawyers as ‘guardian of the bar’.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2018 09:28 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Ranjan Gogoi,Chief Justice of India,CJI
Justice Ranjan Gogoi during a book launch, in New Delhi. (PTI File Photo)

With Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra officially recommending Justice Ranjan Gogoi as his successor, the latter is all set to become the next CJI. He will be the first chief justice of the apex court from the northeast.

In his home state Assam, where Gogoi has made headlines for hearing the contentious issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being monitored by the Supreme Court, former colleagues and friends recall him as a soft spoken but tough judge.

The Gauhati High Court was where Gogoi first practised as a lawyer from 1978, when he joined the Bar. He was elevated as a judge in February 2001 when he was a little over 46 years old.

Interestingly, Justice J Chelameswar and Justice MB Lokur —who, along with Justice Gogoi and Justice Kurian Joseph held a press conference in January to air their grievances over the way the CJI was allocating cases — were Justice Gogoi’s colleagues at the Gauhati High Court.

Born in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh in an illustrious family — his father Keshab Chandra Gogoi served as the Congress-led government’s chief minister of Assam in 1982 for a little over two months at the height of the Assam agitation against illegal immigrants— Gogoi is the second of five siblings. He did his schooling in Dibrugarh’s Don Bosco School before joining St Stephens College in Delhi University where he studied history.

“He was a tough taskmaster. If you promised to get something done by 8 am on a Saturday, an excuse that you had a late night on Friday would not cut ice with him,” said a former colleague who worked with him at the Gauhati High Court, but did not want to be named.

Gogoi started his legal practice in the chambers of senior counsel JP Bhattacharjee, whom people describe as a prominent lawyer of his time.

But he set up his own office once Bhattacharjee moved to Kolkata a few years later.

He was designated a senior counsel at the high court in 1999.

This former colleague describes Gogoi as a workaholic and someone who was not fond of “joining clubs” but would either work or spend time with his family. “He did not take up too many cases,” said Ashok Saraf, another senior counsel at the Gauhati High Court who has known and worked with Justice Gogoi. “Monetary consideration was never a big deal for him,” he said. The former colleague recalls how Gogoi as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) was instrumental in ensuring the then Tezpur Mental Hospital was upgraded to a proper research institute. He became the talk of town again when he appeared for then chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in a letter-of-credit scam being investigated by the CBI.

In his home town Dibrugarh, where Justice Gogoi was never a member of the Bar, the local Bar association still calls him “guardian of the Bar”. “He was instrumental in making sure we got a new building,” said Ajit Borgohain, President of the Dibrugarh Bar Association.

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 00:04 IST