Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Full court reference held for late Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar

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A full court reference was held on Monday for late Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar, the sitting Supreme Court judge, who passed away in April this year.

The reference is a mark of respect and remembrance for judges and senior lawyers for the deceased judge’s contributions to the legal fraternity and the cause of Justice.

In his reference, CJI N.V. Ramana said, “I never thought that I would have to condole the death of one of my most valuable colleagues. I’ve personally lost a most cherished and valuable colleague. He enrolled as an advocate on September 5, 1980, and practiced in Dharwad. He started practicing in the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore in 1981. In 1984, Mr. Shantangoudar started his independent practice. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court on 12th May, 2003 and was sworn as a Permanent Judge on 24th September 2004. He was sworn as the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court on 1st January 2016. Justice Shantanagoudar was elevated as a Judge, Supreme Court of India on 17th February, 2017. 

“His contribution to the jurisprudence of the nation is indispensable. Some of his most important judgments are for the common man’s welfare. His judgments provide deep insight into his thought process, years of experience, knowledge and wisdom. He has immense sense of humour and an infectious laugh. Justice Shantanagoudar was encouraging to young lawyers, law clerks and interns. He was always willing to give guidance and support. For the last although his health took a toll, he continued to sit on the Bench. He never showed people the extent of his illness. His immense grace, strength of character and commitment to his judicial duty was inspiring. 

“May the departed soul rest in eternal peace,” CJI Ramana said. 

Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal said, “It is with a feeling of profound grief that a Full Court and the Bar gathered here to mourn a departed colleague. Justice M. Shantanagoudar left us at what is today a not-so old age of 62 and deprived us of the benefit of his wisdom of an illustrious career at the Bench. Born on 5th May, 1958, he started his practice as a lawyer at Dharwad. He successively held the Office of judge of the Karnataka High Court, Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court and finally Judge of the Supreme Court of India till he passed away on 24th April, 2021, a few years before he was to retire.”

“I am told that during the Full Court Reference during his assumption of Office as Chief Justice of Kerala High Court, Justice Shantangoudar cited a passage- “So simple it is to live. So simple it is to love. So simple it is to smile. But so difficult it is to be simple.” It is most apt that Justice Shantanagoudar chose to refer to these lines for all who knew him would certainly say that he himself was simplicity personified.”

“He was never presumptuous and would readily interact with his colleagues on a range of topics. During his tenure at the Supreme Court, Justice Shantangoudar was regarded as one of the brightest legal minds, particularly in the field of criminal law. Even his short tenure at the Supreme Court, I do not believe that you would find a single lawyer who did not have a greatest admiration for him. His colleagues at the Bench recall him as an extremely compassionate man and one gifted with a rare sense of humour,” Venugopal said.

“He brought liveliness during court proceedings.He was a man of conviction. He took a firm stand and delivered a dissenting opinion in the Indore Development Authority case. He took the view that as there was judgment which was contradictory to the decision of majority which had been rendered by a coordinate Bench, the question of law involved had necessarily to be referred to a larger Bench for determination. His dissent was ultimately upheld as law.”

The Attorney general said,

“Even though his short tenure was affected by his being unwell, nevertheless, Justice Shantangoudar delivered several important decisions which greatly advanced public interest. In one of his last judgments Amitabha Dasgupta  delivered in February 2021, just a few months before his passing away, Justice Shantanagoudar sought to protect the earnings of the public by increasing the accountability so far as the locker system in the banks is concerned. He held that the banks could not wash their hands of liability in the event of theft  being occurred on the customer’s belongings in lockers. Accordingly, he directed the Reserve Bank of India to frame directions to be used by banks with mandatory steps to be taken with respect of locker facilities.”

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Justice Shantanagoudar was a man of integrity and courage. He was also a lively person. Even though he suffered from cancer, which had finally taken his life, he was keen to serve on the Bench and participate in the proceedings. “It is with utmost sorrow that we condole the loss of Justice Shantanagoudar. He is survived by his wife, daughter and son. I offer my deepest condolences to them. May the warm memories of Justice Shantanagoudar bring solace to his family,” he said.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said, “Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar left for his heavenly abode on 24th April, 2021, while serving his office. It is said that all members die, but death cannot kill their names. Justice Shantanagoudar was one such pious personality who cannot be forgotten.The name of Shantanagoudar has two parts- ‘Shanta’ meaning calm and ‘goudar’ meaning elder, one who shows the path and leads. Justice Shantanagoudar truly lived upon his name and guided us till the end.”

Justice Shantanagoudar enrolled with the Karnataka State Bar Council in 1980 and joined the chambers of the legendary advocate Sh. I.G. Hiregoudar, whose office was akin to a law university. Soon thereafter, he shifted to Bengaluru to join the chambers of then advocate Shivraj Patil. He served as Karnataka State Public Prosecutor before being appointed as an Additional Judge on 12th May, 2003 in the High Court of Karnataka. Immediately upon his elevation, his father Mr. Mallikarjuna Shantanagoudar surrendered his license and gave up his practice from that very day, Singh said.

“Throughout his career as a judge, he displayed a quick grasp and keen intellect, coupled with utmost humility and courtesy. His effortless simplicity never came in the way of taking fearless decisions. He passed a dissenting judgment in the Indore Development case. In his historic judgment in “Sakkubai”, an order was passed for demolition of an illegal structure at Hampi World Heritage site that was constructed in violation of law.”

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“Justice Shantanagoudar was an advent devotee of Satya Sai Baba. Justice Shantanagoudar’s humane side was seen during the lockdown period when he made considerable contribution to Covid-19 relief work. Besides being a compassionate man, Justice Shantanagoudar had a great sense of humour and would bring liveliness to regular court proceedings. He was someone who always encouraged junior counsels and motivated them by giving them more time to argue to boost their confidence. He was always extremely calm and patient at the hearings. He said that with hard work, sincerity and humility, nothing was impossible. Justice Shanatangoudar was a very warm and a cordial person filled with compassion, sympathy and consideration who mix with one and all on even terms.He died at the Medanta Hospital in Haryana on 24th April, 2021. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter. “

Singh said, according to family members, Justice Shantanagoudar had expressed his desire that if at all he dies he wished to be buried next to his mother, who passed away in July 2020. “I would conclude with a saying that “life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living”. When we commemorate the life of Justice Shantanagoudar, we all desire to follow the imprints left by him,” Singh said.

The reference for late Justice Shantanagoudar had Chief Justice of India Justice N.V. Ramana and all the other sitting judges of the Supreme Court in the CJI’s courtroom. Senior law officers, including Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Supreme Court Bar Association president Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record president Shivaji Jadhav, advocates, family members of late Justice Shantanagoudar were present.

Read full speech of CJI N.V. Ramana below


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