The True Face A Reply to Justice P N Bhagwati


Former Chief Justice of India P. N. Bhagwati recently admitted in an interview that Supreme Court decision in ADM Jabalpur was wrong and it is something for which Indian Supreme Court should be ashamed. Our Associate Editor Raghul Sudheesh and Adv. Shanmugham D. Jayan critically analyses Justice P. N. Bhagwati’s contributions to the growth Indian Jurisprudence.
By Shanmugham D. Jayan and Raghul Sudheesh
In an interview with Justice P.N. Bhagwati (Pictured) confesses that the Supreme Court decision in ADM Jabalpur was wrong and he pleads guilty for the same. The reason attributed for him joining the majority (Justices A. N. Ray, Y. V. Chandrachud, and M.H. Beg) in the case was that he was persuaded by his colleagues and he admits it was an act of weakness on his part. He also says that “It was against my conscience…That judgment is not Justice Bhagwati’s”. Further he goes on to mention that post emergency period, he realized the mistake and he practically rewrote Part III and Part IV of the Constitution; particularly Articles 14, 19, 21 and 32.
In the Minerva Mills judgment he accepts thus: “Unfortunately we could not be ready with our judgment and hence on  May 9,1980 being the last working day of the Court before the summer vacation we made an order expressing our conclusion but stating that we would give our reasons later”. Though he owes it to the paucity of time, a judge expressing his unwillingness to adduce reasons for a judgment is a trend alien to common law system where precedents form binding law.
Justice Bhagwati has praised Indira Gandhi government during the emergency and later criticized her during the tenure of Janata government. Later on when Indira Gandhi came back to power; he wrote a letter congratulating her.
An excerpt from the letter Justice Bhagwati wrote after Indira Gandhi was re elected:
“May I offer you my heartiest congratulations on your resounding victory in the elections and your triumphant return as the Prime Minister of India…I am sure that with your iron will and firm determination, uncanny insight and dynamic vision, great administrative capacity and vast experience, overwhelming love and affection of the people and above all, a heart which is identified with the misery of the poor and the weak, you will be able to steer the ship of the nation safely to its cherished goal.”