He read the Constitution as belonging to the people: CJI Gogoi pays homage to Justice PN Bhagwati at book launch

Shruti Mahajan February 9 2019

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and President of India Ram Nath Kovind remembered former Supreme Court judge Justice PN Bhagwati for his role in championing the cause of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and his efforts to uphold Human Rights during a book release on Friday.

At the event held for releasing the book titled Law Justice & Judicial Power: Justice PN Bhagwati’s Approach, CJI Gogoi said,

“Justice Bhagwati was a legal craftsman who utilized his long tenure in the Supreme Court to give shape to the aspirations of the Constitution. He read the Constitution as belonging to the people of India…It was his dedication coupled with the empathy for the underprivileged that led him to gravitate towards unshackling access to justice.”

CJI Gogoi added that Justice Bhagwati’s landmark judgments are a living testimony to his vision. He referred to the former Chief Justice of India as the “harbinger of environmental jurisprudence” and a “judicial statesman”.

“Justice Bhagwati evolved constitutional ideas that are still getting shaped. This reflects his judicial statesmanship.”

Justice Bhagwati was the one who envisaged the necessity for specialized Environmental Courts, which later manifested itself in the form of the National Green Tribunal, CJI Gogoi added.

President Kovind, who was presented the first copy of the book by CJI Gogoi, called Justice Bhagwati the “Father of Public Interest Litigation” in India.

He added that Justice Bhagwati was a “friend of Justice and a friend of those seeking justice”, and that he expanded the concept of justice, making it more accessible to common people.

The idea of the Supreme Court taking up petitions filed even on postcards was worthy of appreciation, President Kovind said. However, he added, the same PIL jurisdiction is also being misused by some actors who have vested interests.

“There are occasions when PIL professionals may misuse such provisions for their vested ends or to obstruct legitimate decision making. I am happy that the Judiciary is guarding against such attempts.”

Attorney General for India KK Venugopal also addressed the gathering at the event and remembered Justice Bhagwati for his role in expanding the scope of human rights. Particular mention was made of Justice Bhagwati's reforms in the treatment of prisoners.

“No other judge in India has contributed so much especially to constitutional law and human rights…Justice Bhagwati embarked upon prison reforms…This was a great human being with a great heart. This is how he was able to expand the scope of human rights.”

The book is a collection of 24 essays written in honour of Justice Bhagwati, celebrating his judicial work and landmark judgments as well as his work towards introducing public interest litigation in India. The book has been edited and introduced by Professor (Dr.) Moolchand Sharma.

Pallavi Shroff, Managing Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and daughter of Justice PN Bhagwati also shared the stage with CJI Gogoi, President Kovind, Venugopal and Sharma. She said,

“It is a proud moment for our family and I am very thankful to everyone who has come together today to pay tribute to my father and celebrate his contributions to the legal fraternity with us. His sense of duty towards his countrymen and belief in humanity were the driving force behind his judgments. I am very happy that the fraternity has honoured his life’s work in the form of this Festschrift.”

Various sitting Judges of the Supreme Court including Justice AK Sikri, Justice Indu Malhotra sitting Judges of the Delhi High Court, legal luminaries like former CJI Justice RM Lodha, Senior Avocate Soli Sorabjee, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal also graced the occasion.

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