The debate on propriety of judges accepting post-retirement jobs from the government has been going on for a long time. The case of Justice Ranjan Gogoi is the latest to get the issue back in focus. Should they or shouldn’t they, is the question.
In the 18th and the 19th Century, the German General Staff corps, consisted of officers qualified to perform staff duties, and formed a unique military fraternity. The elite group was distinguished by the formal selection of its officers by character, competence and commitment. These men of mettle, in operational situations, had the right to disagree, in writing, with the plans or orders of the commander of the formation and advise him on the correct course of action. For these reasons, the German General Staff officers and not the field commanders, would often be credited with military victories since they gave the German armed forces a decisive strategic advantage over their adversaries, for nearly a century and a half.
One of the most important criteria, to be selected for this elite group, was that the officers had to be with no “personal ambition”. The Genera Staff dubbed the officers, who were known to be self-centered, as, “Climbers”, hence, such officers were weeded out, at once. They hunted for officers who were driven by an ideal or a vision higher than themselves.
Coming back to Gogoi’s issue, he has done what everyone one has been doing. Nearly 70% of the retiring judges are “accommodated” by the government in one or the other positions. As Shekhar Gupta puts it, every judicial case, ruled in favour of the government, increases the chances of a judge, for post-retirement benefits, by 15%-20%. Therefore, a judge who gives a minimum of five favourable judgments would have ensured 100% strike rate for his ‘re-habilitation’. Rarely do we come across someone, leave aside judiciary, who is not plagued by dark past and who does not aspire for a brighter future. In that sense, Justice Gogoi is neither an exception nor is he extra-special.
George Washington, although not bound by a two-term limit, refused to accept the third term in office. He feared it would establish a precedent that the presidency was a lifetime appointment. Instead, he stepped aside to make way for a successor, proving to future generations (and his contemporary critics) his commitment to democracy rather than power.
But then, only a very few go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled. Come to think of it, while the most popular president of the USA was setting a precedent, Ranjan Gogoi is merely following a precedent: There is a vast difference between the two.