BIOGRAPHY OF CHIEF JUSTICE SARV MITRA SIKRI

Born on- 26th of April, 1908

Assumed Office- 22nd of January, 1971

Retired on- 25th of April, 1973

Education-

  • Bachelors of Law (Legum Baccalaureus) Trinity College, Cambridge

Previously

Judge of Supreme Court (01st of August, 1969 to 25th of April, 1973)

The 13th Chief Justice of India, Sarv Mittra Sikri, was born in Lahore on April 26, 1908, where he also received his primary education. He went to London to pursue his medical education. He soon had a change of heart and enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge, to study law. The Lincoln’s Inn called him to the Bar. He joined Mr Jagannath Agarwal’s chambers in Lahore in the 1930s and started his legal career there. Mr Agarwal was a well-known criminal and civil lawyer in the High Court of Lahore.

Before the Das Commission, which was looking into allegations against Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon, a former chief minister of Punjab, Sikri J represented the State of Punjab. He was appointed as Punjab’s Assistant Advocate General in 1949, and in 1961, he was made the state’s Advocate General. The first attorney to be appointed directly to the Supreme Court bench was Justice Sikri in 1964. Only nine attorneys have been personally appointed to the Supreme Court bench up to this date.

He succeeded Chief Justice Shah in 1971.

India’s stand-in delegate to the UN Committee on the Codification and Development of International Law was Justice Sikri. He also participated in the International Law Association Committee on Rivers in 1955. He took part in the Geneva Law of Sea Conference in 1958 as a representative of India. Additionally, he took a keen interest in the issues being handled by the International Law Association (Indian branch).

He played a lot of golf after his retirement in 1973. Later, he developed Parkinson’s disease and died on September 24, 1992.

Important Judgement

In the case of Vivian Rodrick v. State of West Bengal[1], Sikri J. stated that a court’s failure to act promptly in cases involving death sentences is a legitimate justification for sentence commuting. He agreed that the six-year wait had been extremely painful for those who had been constantly afraid of dying.

Justice Sikri contributed to Justice Shah’s majority opinion in the famous case of RC Cooper v. Union of India[2], which stated that a director or shareholder could not ask the court to protect the Fundamental Rights of a company unless it could be demonstrated that the impugned action also violated his rights.

The Supreme Court’s 13-judge bench heard the historic Keshavananda Bharti case[3]. In his opinion piece for the majority, Sikri J stated that while Parliament has the authority to change the Constitution, including the chapter on fundamental rights, such authority was not unrestricted. Parliament was not allowed to change the Constitution’s “Basic Structure.” On the eve of his retirement, he gave this judgement. It’s interesting to note that some have said the hearings, in this case, were subjected to an “artificial limitation” because of Sikri J.’s approaching retirement. The Court did not want the proceedings to go on for too long since a new Chief Justice would need to hear the case. The distribution of a single-typed sheet on the Bench, according to some, “gerrymandered” a majority. Nine judges signed this page to attest to the majority.

Just a few days after the Kesavananda ruling, Justice A.N. Ray took over as Chief Justice of India. Ray J.’s appointment was dogged by controversy since, in violation of the seniority norm, he replaced three senior Supreme Court judges.


[1] 1971 AIR 1584, 1971 SCR (3) 546 (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/43718/)

[2] 1970 AIR 564, 1970 SCR (3) 530 (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/513801/)

[3] 1973 4 SCC 225; AIR 1973 SC 1461 (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/257876/)

Image Source: India Today

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