Biography of Justice Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Singh

Born On- 01st of February, 1989

Education-  

  • Bachelors of Arts (BA)
  • Masters of Arts (MA)
  • Bachelors of Law (BL)
  • Doctorate of Law (LLD)

In Office-

  • Vakil, Patna High Court (1922-1927)
  • Lecturer of Government Law College, Patna (1926-1935)
  • Advocate (1927-1935)
  • Member of the Senate of the Faculty of Law and Board of Examiners of Law, Patna University (1932-1951)
  • Government Pleader (1935-1939)
  • Assistant Government Advocate (1940-1942)
  • Sworn in as Additional Judge of the Patna High Court (06th of January, 1943)
  • Permanent Judge of the Patna High Court (06th of December, 1943-1951)
  • Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into strikes in the sugarcane industry (1950)
  • Chief Justice, Nagpur High Court (24th of February, 1951-1954)
  • Judge of the Supreme Court of India (03rd of December, 1954- 30th of September, 1959)
  • Appointed as Chief Justice of India (01st of October, 1959)
  • Pro-chancellor of the Delhi University (1959-1954)
  • Retires from the Supreme Court of India (31st of January, 1964)

Profile-

Justice Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha, who was born on February 1st, 1989, served as India’s sixth Chief Justice. Only former Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud, who held the position for little more than seven years, had a longer tenure as CJI than Justice Sinha’s five years.

Justice Sinha was raised in the Ghazipur area of Bihar by landowners. Although the family had amassed a fortune from its modest zamindari tributes, Sinha J’s father’s spiritual pursuits gradually eroded much of the family’s wealth. The financial position of Sinha J’s family had significantly declined by the time he completed his primary education at Arrah Zilla School.

As the first member of his family to earn a college degree, Sinha J continued his studies in history at Patna University. At the undergraduate level, he won the subject’s gold medal (1919). He pursued a Bachelor of Laws in addition to a postgraduate degree in history (1921), eventually receiving his diploma in 1922.

In 1922, he started his legal career in the Patna High Court, and by 1935, he had been named a government leader. Between 1940 and 1942, while he was the Assistant Government Advocate, Sinha J advanced through the ranks. On January 6th, 1943, he was appointed as an additional judge in the Patna High Court; by December of that same year, his permanent position had been confirmed.

At the age of 52, Sinha J. accepted the position of Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court on February 24th, 1951. Vallabhbhai Patel, who was the then-Union Home Minister, ordered Sinha J’s appointment, despite the Nagpur Court’s objections to the nomination of an “outsider” to its highest position. Despite the unexpected transfer, Sinha J speculated that despite his eight years of service at the Patna High Court, he might never be promoted to Chief Justice. As Sinha J notes in his memoirs Reminiscences and Reflections of a Chief Justice, “sadly, Bihar is infamous for its indulgence in caste distinctions.” Sinha J belonged to the Rajput caste.

However, Sinha J’s career may not have been affected by this bias for very long because on December 3, 1954, he was appointed as a judge at the Supreme Court. He was named Chief Justice of India on October 1st, 1959, five years later. On January 31st, 1954, five years after leaving the CJI position, Sinha J retired from that position and went on to lead a peaceful post-retirement life. At the age of 87, he passed away on November 12th, 1986.

Sinha J. wrote 137 judgments during his nine years in the Supreme Court and sat on 685 benches.

Sinha J ruled on constitutional, civil, and criminal cases primarily.

Important Judgement

In the 1961 case State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu Ogad [1], an 11-judge SC panel considered whether taking fingerprint, handwriting, and DNA samples violated the right to self-incrimination guaranteed by Article 20(3)[2] of the Indian Constitution. This clause states that no one can be forced to testify against himself. Chief Justice B.P. Sinha explained in his opinion piece for the majority that giving the police tangible evidence did not turn the suspect into a “witness” against himself. In its common usage, the term “witness” referred to a person who gave oral testimony in court. As a result, collecting DNA, handwriting, and fingerprint samples did not violate Article 20. (3).

In Sardar Syedna Taher Saifuddin v. State of Bombay, 1962[3], Sinha CJI wrote for the majority and supported the Head Priest of the Dawoodi Bohra community’s right to and authority over ex-communication. The Court used the “Essential Religious Practices” test to assess whether the Bombay Prevention of Excommunication Act, 1949, which forbade the Head Priest of the Dawoodi Bohra community from excommunicating its members, violated the right to religious expression and the rights of a religious denomination under Articles 25[4] and 26[5] of the Constitution. The Court noted that the texts and teachings of the religion must be consulted to determine what qualifies as a religious activity. The Legislature is not allowed to outlaw a religion through reform.

A seven-judge SC bench maintained the legality of Section 124A[6] of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which made sedition a crime in Kedar Nath Singh v. the State of Bihar, 1962[7]. Writing on behalf of the Court, Sinha CJI acknowledged that Article 19 (1) (a)[8] of the Constitution of India, 1950’s ban on sedition created restrictions on the right to free speech. Section 124A could not be overturned because it imposed a “reasonable restriction” as defined by Article 19(2) (which lists the limitations that may be placed on the right to free speech). Sinha CJI made it clear that criticism of the government did not constitute sedition unless it was coupled with a demand for violence or other instigation.

Outside of Court Life

Sinha J actively participated in educational endeavours while pursuing a law career. Between 1926 and 1935, he lectured on law at Patna’s Government Law College while also working as a lawyer at the Patna High Court. Between 1932 and 1951, he served as a member of Patna University’s Senate of the Faculty of Law and the Board of Examiners of Law while also becoming more ingrained in the Patna High Court throughout the ensuing two decades. He was the Pro-Chancellor of Delhi University in addition to being the CJI.

Surprisingly, Sinha J didn’t pursue many government positions after retiring. He would initiate specific arbitration processes at the request of the SCI or private parties. Contrary to his diligent successor Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar, he did not participate in any Commissions of Inquiry.

His son and grandson helped to prolong Sinha J’s legacy in the judiciary. From 1973 to 1982, his son Rameshwar Prasad Sinha presided as a judge at the Patna High Court. Bisheshwar Prasad Singh, the grandson of Sinha J, joined the High Court Bench in 1987 and was promoted to the SC in 2001.


[1] Citations- 1961 AIR 1808, 1962 SCR (3) 10- (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1626264/)

[2] Indian Kanoon (Article 20 (3) of the Constitution of India)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/655638/

[3] Citations- 1962 AIR 853, 196 SCR Supl. (2) 496- (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/510078/)

[4] Indian Kanoon (Article 25 of the Constitution of India)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/631708/

[5] Indian Kanoon (Article 26  of the Constitution of India)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1858991/

[6] Indian Kanoon (Section 124 (A) of the Indian Penal Code)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1641007/

[7] Citations- 1962 AIR 955, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769- (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/111867/)

[8] Indian Kanoon (Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India)- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1142233/

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