Former Judge of Supreme Court of India, Justice S. Ranganathan was born in 1927 and laid down his last breath on January 20, 2022 at Chennai. He was 94 years old. He studied at P.S. School and later at Presidency College and at Madras Law College. The illustrious career of Justice Ranganathan as Advocate of the Madras High Court began in 1952. He became a permanent junior advisor to the income tax Commissioner, Madras, in 1954. Later he was appointed as First Permanent Counsel and then a Judicial member of the Income Tax Appeal Court. He served the Tribunal with great distinction and displayed remarkable scholarship and learning in his orders. He was elevated to the position of President of the Tribunal in 1974. After three years as President, he was elevated to the position of Judge of High Court of Delhi in 1977. He presented the cases of Income Tax Department fairly and objective.
He delivered several erudite judgements on all branches of law including criminal law, within his 11 years of tenure at Delhi High Court. Later he was appointed as the Judge of Supreme Court of India in 1987, where he served till 1992. After his retirement, the Indian Government appointed him as the first Chairman of the Advance Rulings Authority. Under his wise leadership, the AMF was able to respond admirably to the expectations of taxpayers and the income tax department. He also revised the treatise on income tax law written by AC Sampath Lyengar.
The qualities that Justice Ranganathan displayed as a Judge were a model for Judges and members of quasi-judicial courts. His orders were elaborate, but not unnecessarily. No word or idea was lost, and he wrote only what was appropriate or relevant to the dispute. The structuring of judgements is meticulously built, block by block as one concept seamlessly merges into the other and flows logically from the other. He really looked into the matter, invariably traced the legislative history of the statutory provisions that needed to be dealt with and set them out with a clarity and precision not easily attainable. It is impossible for anyone to add, remove or change a word in his judgements as Judges sometimes tend to do. His judgements were flawless products elaborated after a thorough, serious and objective study of facts and law supported by defensive arguments. It has been heard by several senior lawyers in Calcutta that Justice Ranganathan never had any reservations about deciding the case based on a point that was not argued. For him, noting that is relevant to the decision-making process should be ignored just because it hasn’t been argued. In addition to his culture and erudition, his humility as a quality that has always stood out.
N Rangachari, former head of Insuarance Regulatory and Development Authority said, “He was a gentleman of speech, very humble and very principled. My mentor Rangaswamy and Judge Ranganathan were good friends. I saw them together and blessed them. He was a very noble soul”.
Senior Advocate Arvind Dattar said Judge Ranganathan was a prominent judge and made landmark rulings in many tax and constitutional issues. At a very young age he became the member of the Tribunal. He delivered very important judgements during his tenure at Delhi High Court. In the AR Antulay case, he delivered a monetary dissenting judgement.
He was one of those rare judges who was willing to change his own judgement. In a judgement he affirmed that “consistency for the sake of it alone is not a virtue”. Towards the end of his life as a Sanskrit scholar, he wrote a book about Sunandara Kandam of Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam, recalls Mahalingam.
In 29 April 1988, Justice S Ranganathan headed seven judge bench in the case of A. R. Antulay v. R. S. Nayak. The seat ruled in 1988 that the case’s 1984 administering was preposterous, illegal, and unlawful beneath Article 21 of the Indian structure since Antulay’s right to utilize the offer framework was restricted. The Apex Court expressed that segment 406 of the Criminal Method Code, 1973 permits for the exchange of criminal cases and the Supreme Court to move cases and demands. Agreeing to the law, the court may facilitate a particular case or appeal from one High Court to another High Court, or from a Subordinate Criminal Court to another Criminal Court of identical or upper-level purview. The Supreme Court needs the specialist to exchange cases to itself. As it were the Parliament, by law, has the specialist to form or grow the ward. The Judiciary has not been vested with such control. It was too noted that the appealing party had the elemental right beneath Article 21 of the Structure, a Extraordinary Judge’s.
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