Former CJI Gogoi faces defamation suit in Assam

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(Photo: Book cover of ‘Justice for the Judge: An Autobiography’)

Nava J Thakuria

Guwahati: The former Chief Justice of India and currently a member of Rajya Sabha, Ranjan Gogoi faces a defamation suit in Assam for his objectionable views penned in a book relating to Aabhijeet Sharma, president of Assam Public Works (APW). Gogoi termed the APW chief as a threat to Prateek Hajela, IAS, then State Coordinator of National Register of Citizen for Assam, in his book titled ‘Justice for the Judge: An Autobiography’.

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Sharma has filed the Rs one crore suit (case no 261/23) against Gogoi and also the publisher of the book (Rupa Publications India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi) at the court of Kamrup (metropolitan) district & civil judge in Guwahati. He also sought a ban (case no 447/23) on the book, where Gogoi wrote that ‘at the local level, personal attack on the SCNR (Hajela) and veiled attacks on the judges’ by local politicians and specially by Aabhijeet Sharma, the APW president left the Supreme Court bench convinced that orders should be passed to protect Hajela from undue harassment and calculated harm.

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He also wrote that the SC bench passed the order dated 18 October 2019 for Hajela’s deputation on inter-cadre transfer to Madhya Pradesh. Subsequent events like filing of FIRs against Hajela and other NRC officials, allegations of corruption and threats to order CBI probes besides enormous misinformation to the media and wide publicity thereof leave Gohoi convinced that the bench was thoroughly justified in passing the rather unusual order by invoking Article 142 of the Constitution.

Mentionable is that Sharma, who remains vocal against the massive corruption in the NRC updation process, and he addressed a press conference in 2017 describing the financial irregularities in the exercise. But following Hajela’s complaint before the apex court (as the apex court was supposedly monitoring the process), Sharma was scolded by then CJI Gogoi and even a suo-moto contempt case was filed. He then tendered an apology before the SC in spite of knowing that he was right. The contempt proceeding was subsequently closed.

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But the observation made by Sharma was found to be correct by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. The CAG in its report clearly stated that there was misappropriation of public money in the NRC updation process. It also recommended penal actions against Hajela and the system integrator (m/s Wipro limited) for violating the country’s basic minimum wages act, while paying very low salaries to thousands of data entry operators for nearly five years. Earlier, Sharma lodged a police complaint against Wipro and also sent a letter to Wipro Technologies’ chairperson Azim Premji informing about the company’s role in the NRC process.

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