BIOGRAPHY OF CHIEF JUSTICE P.N. BHAGWATI

Judges should be of stern, stuff and tough fire , unbending before power, economic or political, and they must uphold the core principle of law which says, be you ever so high, the law is above you.”

–   Justice P.N. Bhagwati

The complete boldness of Justice P.N. Bhagwati’s vision, philosophical, rationale and futuristic imprints of judicial activism appear to be unparalleled. It provides a flare of hope to us that much desired changes in Indian legal system are possible. In the legal records of Independent India very few Judges have left an indelible imprint on justice delivery system and legal mechanisms for societal betterment.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati was the 17th Chief Justice Of India, serving from 12th July 1985 until his retirement on 20th December 1986. He introduced the concept of Public Interest Litigation and absolute liability in India. He is the longest served Supreme Court Judge (including Chief Justice to tenure) in India.

Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati was born on 21st December 1921 in Gujarat and died on 15th June 2017 in New Delhi. Justice Bhagwati received his education in Mumbai. He studied in Elphinstone College, taking a Mathematics (Hons.) degree from Bombay University in 1941. In 1942 he courted arrest during the Indian Independence Movement and went underground for four months. He later received his law degree from Bombay University after studying at Government Law College, Bombay.

His father was Justice Natwarlal H. Bhagwati, a Supreme Court judge. He was the elder brother of the economist Jagdish Bhagwati and the neurosurgeon S. N. Bhagwati. He was married to Ms. Prabhavati and the couple have three daughters. Justice P.N. Bhagwati was a devotee of the popular Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba, and was also a member of Sathya Sai Trust till his death.

Justice Bhagwati started his career practicing at the Bombay High Court. In July 1960, he was appointed as a judge of The Gujarat High Court for thirteen years. From September 1967 till 1973, he was appointed the Chief Justice of Gujarat High court. In July 1973, he was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. In August 1985, he became Chief Justice of India.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati held several key offices on Judicial reforms and legal aid in Gujarat. He ran the Pilot Project of free Legal Aid and Advice in the state as chairman of the State Legal Aid Committee.

He had been a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee from 1995 to 2009, being re-elected after every two years on expiry of his term. He was also chairman of the committee in 2001-03. As of 2006, he had also served as a member of the Committee of Experts of the International Labour Organization for over 27 years.

In 2007 Justice P.N. Bhagwati was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in public affairs, India’s second highest civilian award.

SOME OF HIS LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS

During his entire tenure, Justice Bhagwati delivered many landmarks and important judgments. He, along with Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, is called the pioneer of judicial activism in the country. Some of his most prominent Judgments may be briefed as under-

Habeas Corpus Case 1976 also known as ADM Jabalpur V. Shivkant Shukla Case. In this case he held that during the time of emergency, a person’s right to not be unlawfully detained can be cancelled. This verdict received a lot of criticism since it decreased the significance attributed to Fundamental Rights under the Indian Constitution. Justice P.N. Bhagwati in 2011 agreed with the popular view that this verdict was not properly delivered and he “apologized”.

Maneka Gandhi Case 1978 In the case, Maneka Gandhi had been issued an Indian passport on 1 June 1976, which was confiscated abruptly at the airport. As per article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which talks about with Right to Freedom, Gandhi filed a writ petition in which Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer gave the Judgement in favour of Gandhi.

S.P Gupta vs. Union of India Justice Bhagwati in the said case supported the expansion of access to justice to all the Indians and held that “The Court has to innovate new methods and strategies to provide access to justice to large masses of people who are denied basic human rights, to whom freedom and liberty have no meaning at all.

Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab  In this case, where the rarest of rare doctrine was given by the majority judges, Justice Bhagwati was of the opinion that “Criminals do not die at the hands of established laws, they perish by the hands of other men. Death Penalty is the worst form of Assassination since there it is invested with the approval of the Society.

Minerva Mills Case Justice Bhagwati was the only dissenting judge in the Minerva Mills case as well in 1980. He upheld the 42nd Constitutional Amendment during Emergency, which was struck by the majority. In the case, the majority was of the view that the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution was limited by the Constitution itself.

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Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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