On National Law Day, saluting two remarkable judges
November 26 is National Law Day in India. It's important not just to lawyers and judges but to all of us because the law is often the citizen's last resort. Here are two judges who have made that a reality.
by Raghul Sudheesh
The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. Thirty years later, the Supreme Court Bar Association declared 26 November National Law Day. Thereafter, every year, this day is celebrated as Law Day all over India, especially by members of the legal fraternity. This day is celebrated to honour the 207 eminent members of the Constituent Assembly who are considered the founding fathers of the Constitution of India.
Shri M. N. Krishnamani, President, Supreme Court Bar Association, on a Law Day address said that the main objective of celebrating Law Day is "to rededicate ourselves to the following cardinal principles which formed the solid foundation on which this grand constitutional edifice is erected: (i) the rule of law, (ii) independence of the Judiciary, and (iii) the independence of legal profession. These three principles are intimately interconnected. The main purpose of independent judiciary and an independent bar is only to ensure that there is the rule of law.”
Law Day is an important day for the members of legal profession in India and also for the people of India. Lawyers and the Indian judiciary have time and again been the last front in the protection of rights and liberties of individuals.
On this day the Bar and Bench recognized two legal luminaries who have played an important role in promoting the spirit of our Constitution through their judgments, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice G. S. Singhvi. While the former retired on 7 July, 2011, the latter continues to serve and is scheduled to retire on 12 December 2013. The Indian Supreme Court recently pronounced some path breaking decisions. It is interesting to note that at least one of the two above mentioned judges have been a part of the bench which has delivered such eye-opening judgments.
Justice B. Sudershan Reddy
In Ram Jethmalani & Ors vs. Union of India & Ors, Justice Reddy criticised the Union government, for loosening its strings when it came to investigation of black money related cases and asked the government to tighten its grip over perpetrators of such crimes. He reiterated his point by constituting a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to monitor the investigation and the steps being taken to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks. Also, the stay of Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan’s bail plea and the fact that he was made available for custodial interrogation was only because of Justice Reddy.
In the Salwa Judum case, Justice Reddy came down heavily on the Chattisgarh government and the Centre for appointing tribals as Special Police Officers (SPOs) and training them to counter Maoists. He held the action to be “unconstitutional” by highlighting the importance of human rights.
In 2008, he was also a part of the bench which laid down the guidelines for dealing with Public Interest Litigation, based on which the government is, presently considering a Bill. He reiterated that the High Court judges could not order suo motu investigation merely by treating anonymous letters and petitions listing allegations against individuals or institutions as PILs.
Justice G. S. Singhvi
The fight for the relevance of PILs gained momentum again this year, largely due to Justice Singhvi’s judgment in the case Delhi Jal Board Appellant v/s National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers & others. The bench, in the above mentioned case, stated that it would be a denial of justice if the courts did not address genuine petitions filed by individuals, social workers and NGOs. The Court reminded the government that the judicial constituents of the State also had a duty to play in protecting the rights of every individual and ensuring that everyone is able to live with dignity.
While dealing with Justice Dinakaran’s petition, the Apex Court, comprising a bench of which Justice Singhvi was a part, refused to be bogged down by the delay tactics used by Justice Dinakaran. It ruled that former Sikkim High Court Chief Justice, Justice Dinakaran’s known silence with regard to P. P. Rao’s appointment to the Rajya Sabha Committee for a period of almost ten months, militates against the bona fides of his objection to the appointment of P. P. Rao as member of the Committee. As a result of this decision Justice Dinakaran had to resign to save himself from an impeachment proceeding.
Further, it was Justice Singhvi’s order in the 2G case which led the CBI to conduct an investigation without being influenced by politicians or other influential persons, which finally led to the numerous charges, arrests and trials against the elite class of influential people who were involved in the scam. If not for his order, the trial of this scam may have gone on for years without any ultimate result due to the overreaching hands of corruption. This shows that Justice Singhvi is unperturbed by who is the government in the Centre and believes only in doing his job and upholding the values and goals of our Constitution.
Last Wednesday, a division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justices Singhvi and H. L. Dattu granted bail to seven corporate accused in the 2G scam case, who had been in jail even after the charge sheet was filed and the investigation was complete. Justice Singhvi has played a balanced role here. This decision brings an end to the present trend of keeping under-trials in custody for prolonged periods without any rational justification. While his initial order in the 2G scam paved the way for the arrests and a proper investigation, the present order upheld the rights of the accused envisaged under our Constitution and other laws.
The aforementioned judgments of Justice Reddy and Justice Singhvi evidence the fact that the sacrosanct principles which have been envisaged in our diverse and elaborate Constitution by our founders are in the hands of sound judges. Their judgments have acted as eye-openers for not only the state and central government but also for the citizens of India. In an era, where the Judiciary is embroiled in controversies, these two eminent judges have continuously delivered such judgments which have upheld the values imbibed in the Constitution. On this special day, we salute you.
Raghul Sudheesh is Associate Editor at Bar & Bench. You can follow Raghul on Twitter.
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The authors have dedicated separate chapters on the romantic as well as the nomadic life of the Dada Saheb Phalke winner.