The Supreme Court on Thursday held a full court reference for senior Supreme Court judges late Dr Hans Raj Bhardwaj, Suraj Narayan Prasad Sinha and N.M. Ghatate as a mark of respect and remembrance for their service to the court and justice.
At the full court reference, Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said the Court has assembled to mourn the passing of three renowned members of the Bar.
On Dr Hans Raj Bhardwaj
About Dr Bhardwaj, CJI Ramana said he was born on 17th May 1937. His achievements would run into many pages but I will try to keep this brief.
His journey in the legal profession began in the year 1960, when he completed his LL.B. and enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi as an Advocate. His early legal practice was primarily in the field of criminal law.
He has appeared in several significant criminal cases, such as the infamous contract killing of Vidya Jain. He was an authority on criminal law and election law.
With time, Dr. Bhardwaj’s inclination to politics led him to become a legal advisor to the late Smt. Indira Gandhi.
By 1971, his steady success in the profession was noticed and he was appointed as Additional Public Prosecutor in Delhi. He was engaged to defend several high-profile figures, including prominent political leaders.
In 1982, Dr. Bhardwaj became a Member of the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh.
In January 1985, both his professional worlds of politics and law merged as he was appointed as the Minister of State for Law & Justice in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet.
During his tenure, he was actively involved in enacting several crucial legislations, such as the law on anti-defection and the prohibition of benami transactions. He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh and served as a Minister of State for Planning and Programme Implementation. He was subsequently re-assigned the portfolio of Law & Justice.
He went on to be appointed as the Cabinet Minister for the same after the general elections in 2004. During his tenure Dr. Bhardwaj was at the helm of various legislative reforms – including rights of women in property, right to information, right to rural employment guarantee, reservation for women, access to justice, and digitization of the judicial system.
He was widely credited with upholding the principle of separation of powers and judicial autonomy and independence which is central to our structure of governance.
Dr. Bhardwaj was forward-thinking and played a crucial role in laying the foundation for the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution in 1996. He promoted institutional arbitration, with the goal of making India a global hub for alternative dispute resolution.
After serving as Union Minister for about 15 years under three Prime Ministers, in June 2009, Dr. Bhardwaj was called upon to assume the constitutional post of Governor of Karnataka. He also held additional charge as Governor of Kerala.
Dr. Hans Raj Bhardwaj drew from his wealth of experience and authored several books such as, Law, Lawyers & Judges, Politics, Religion and Judiciary in India, etc. He also had great knowledge about religious scriptures.
Dr. Bhardwaj was very close to my heart. Whenever he was in Hyderabad, I had the privilege of sharing filter coffee with him. I shall cherish the warmth and affection that he had showered on me.
Dr. Hans Raj Bhardwaj left for his heavenly abode on 8th March, 2020 and is survived by his wife, Praful Lata Bhardwaj, who is an Advocate, his son, Arun Bhardwaj who is a Senior Advocate, daughters, Vandita Dutt and Vineeta Atri, who is an Advocate and their families.
On Suraj Narain Prasad Sinha
On Suraj Narain Prasad Sinha, CJI Ramana said Sinha was born on 23rd July, 1930. He did his graduation from LS College, Muzaffarpur and obtained his LL.B. degree in 1955 from Patna Law College.
In 1957, he joined the Bar as a civil practitioner in Samastipur. In the same year, the Sessions Division was created at Samastipur and he was appointed as an Assistant Public Prosecutor.
He continued in the position of Public Prosecutor for Samastipur District until he resigned in protest against the District Administration’s unwarranted firing upon jail inmates.
He was deeply committed to the legal profession and making law accessible to all was his motto. He was at the forefront of opening a law college in his hometown Samastipur in 1978.
He was first elected as a member of the Bihar Bar Council in 1985 and since then, he never lost any election in the State Bar Council.
After practicing in the Patna High Court for ten years, he was designated a Senior Advocate.
He was then elected Chairperson of the Bar Council of India in 2008. During his tenure, he implemented various rules and regulations which led to the development of the legal profession in India.
He was a man of his own making, and his life is an example of how a first- generation lawyer born in a village as son of a cultivator, becomes a Senior Advocate in a High Court and goes on to become Chairperson of the Bar Council of India. His achievements are a result of his discipline and rigour in the profession. As a marathon runner, he took an active interest in sports and general fitness.
Suraj Narayan Prasad Sinha breathed his last on 24th July, 2020 and is survived by his sons, Jitendra Narain Sinha and Indrajeet Narain Sinha and daughters, Neelam Sinha, Poonam Sinha, Kiran Sinha and Rashmi Sinha and their families.
On Dr. N.M. Ghatate
CJI Ramana said Ghatate was born on 21st July, 1937 and completed his graduation in 1957 from Hislop College, Nagpur. He obtained his LL.B. degree from the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. He went on to pursue his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in International Relations and Organization from the American University, Washington D.C.
Dr. Ghatate was also a part-time lecturer in the School of International Service at the American University. Upon his return to India, he served as a part-time lecturer at the Indian Society of International Law. He was an academic at heart.
In 1989, he was designated as Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court of India. In the early 1990s, he was appointed Senior Standing Counsel for several states. He also served as a counsel for the Union of India in the Supreme Court.
Dr. Ghatate has argued before this Court in several landmark constitutional cases, such as ADM Jabalpur, A.K. Roy, and Gajanan Bapat.
In Charles Sobhraj v. Union of India, he argued for vital need of prison reforms. He also appeared in the celebrated case of Ram Bahadur Rai in 1975 regarding the extent of the right to peaceful protest in democracy. Dr. Ghatate also went on to appear in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. Dr. Ghatate earned praise from the Bar and Bench alike.
Dr. Ghatate was appointed as a Member of the Law Commission of India in the year 1998 and then again in 2000. He became the Vice-Chairman of the Law Commission in the year 2003.
His affinity for law is witnessed through his writings. He has authored several books such as ‘Death under the Shadow of Judiciary’ and ‘India’s Disarmament Policy’, and numerous other articles.
Dr. N.M. Ghatate left for his heavenly abode on 24th January, 2021 and is survived by his wife, Smt. Sheila Ghatate, and two sons, Shri Bhalchandra Ghatate and Shri Vinayak Ghatate along with their families.
My Brother and Sister Judges join me in conveying our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of Dr. Hansraj Bharadwaj, Shri Suraj Narayan Prasad Sinha, and Dr. N.M. Ghatate. We pray to the Almighty to give them strength to bear this irreparable loss.