The Verdictum: Justice V Gopala Gowda

Justice V Gopala Gowda

Justice V. Gopala Gowda was elevated to the Supreme Court of India on December 24, 2012. After serving a tenure of nearly four years, or 13,81 days to be precise, Justice Gowda retired on October 5 this year.

He enrolled as an advocate in 1975 and joined the chambers of Senior Advocates K Subba Rao and SC Reddy in Bangalore. Having started his independent practice in 1979, he was also a part-time law professor. He was appointed as an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court in 1997, and was made a permanent judge two years later.

Justice Gowda was made Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court in March 2010, a post he served for more than two years before his elevation to the apex court.

In his farewell held recently, Justice Gowda described himself as a pro-labourer judge. During the ceremony, he was quoted as saying,

“The Supreme Court is not meant just for the ‘haves’. Even the ‘have-nots’ must come to the Supreme Court.

If we don’t protect them, there is no hope for the country.

Go back to the very inception of the Constitution and it is only the judiciary which is responsible for protecting the rights of the people of this country.”

Month-wise distribution of rulings

During his career, Justice Gowda was involved in 349 reported orders and judgments, of which he authored 163 rulings.

Averaging around 30 rulings a month, Justice Gowda’s most productive months were April with 45 rulings, followed by January and September with 43 rulings each. His productivity was relatively lower in May, when he made a mere 9 rulings, and in the months of December and October, which saw only 15 and 19 rulings respectively.

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Day-wise productivity

On average, Justice Gowda’s productivity was around 0.25 rulings per day, which translates to roughly 1 ruling every four days.

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Year-wise distribution of rulings

Justice Gowda’s was most productive during his penultimate year in office, 2015, having made 102 rulings. He had made exactly 100 rulings the previous year. His least productive year was 2016, when he retired.

Year No. of Rulings
2013 83
2014 100
2015 102
2016 64

Bench-wise distribution of rulings

Justice Gowda sat with as many as twenty different judges during his tenure. His most frequent partner was the recently retired Justice C Nagappan, with whom he sat 55 times. He also sat 34 times with Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya and 31 times each with Justice AK Goel and Justice GS Singhvi. He was part of a 3-judge bench 18 times and sat with Chief Justice TS Thakur 14 times.

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Case-type distribution of rulings

The majority of Justice Gowda’s rulings, as is the norm in the Supreme Court, were civil appeals; 247 of his 349 rulings were on civil appeals. He also made 87 rulings on criminal appeals and 4 rulings on writ petitions and contempt petitions each.

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Notable judgments

Highlighting his aforementioned pro-labourer stance, Justice Gowda authored the judgment in the Tata Motors Singur land acquisition case, setting aside the Calcutta High Court’s order and ruling the acquisition to be an exercise done without “application of mind”.

He was part of the bench that called for a legal framework for protection of Good Samaritans in motor vehicle accidents. Along with Arun Mishra J, he held that courts should not normally insist on appearance of Good Samaritans.

Along with Chief Justice Thakur, set aside the dishonourable discharge of an army officer who allegedly had a bad disciplinary record.

He was also responsible for the release of Adambhai Suleimanbhai Ajmeri, who was wrongfully convicted for the 2002 Akshardham blasts, noting in his judgment the “incompetence with which the investigating agencies conducted the investigation”.

Image taken from here.