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Jurists hail former CJI MN Venkatachaliah, his contributions to India, law and the judiciary

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They say destiny does not give us all, where virtues are equal to our genius, but former Chief Justice Manepalli Narayana Rao Venkatachaliah belonged to that exclusive class.

A man of law with a strong head and a tender heart, an erudite scholar who even after occupying the highest of position in the Judiciary, was never touched by the paraphernalia of office.

A revered judge, who held his head high, while his feet firmly touched the roots, who made any lawyer comfortable by his mere knowledge and presence of great judgement. One who never compromised the highest standards of integrity and independence.

Justice M N Venkatachaliah – The Man & The Judge by Senior Advocate V. Sudhish Pai is the journey and evolution of this man, who became a revered judge, a judge of the masses. The book is on the life and times of a man who started his life from the bar and took it to the bench and whose legacy will mark a period in history of Indian Jurisdiction.

The book includes almost all of his reported Supreme Court and High Court decisions, as well as some of his speeches and writings. His decisions are judicial expositions and masterworks.

Justice MN Venkatachalaiah is also the Chief Patron of India Legal.

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The SKOCH India Law Forum (ILF), an independent platform for change-makers, organised the 82nd Skoch summit India Law Forum & LITFest on Monday, to bring about a transformative change to the nation through law and legal reform.

During the 82nd Skoch Summit, India Law Forum & LITFest, the Lifetime Achievement Skoch Challenger Award was conferred on Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman, Senior Advocate R. Venkataramani, along with V. Sudhish Pai were part of the panel, which spoke of Justice Venkatachaliah. Gursharan Dhanjal, Vice Chairman of SKOCH Group, introduced the session.

Speaking about the former Chief Justice of India, Fali Nariman said Justice Venkatachaliah had had a penchant for justice.

Fali Sam Nariman
Fali S. Nariman

He said he was great as a judge, who knew his work well. Nariman also praised him for majorly putting forward his views on account of a five-Judge Constitution Bench in the Union Carbide case, which was otherwise a very disputed case.

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The then CJI authoritatively drew distinction between the two great concepts of law and justice by upholding the constitutional validity of Article 142 in the case.

He further said that Venkatachaliah never lost his cool except on one occasion, when a party in-person arguing the case shouted at the CJI. The CJI shouted back at him, but quickly realised his mistake and very gracefully told the person that his plea will be heard, when both he and the bench were in a better mood.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal

Among other reminiscences, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal recalled when the then Manipur Speaker Dr. H. Borobabu Singh was summoned by CJI Venkatachaliah.

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The Speaker believed he was immune from court jurisdiction and refused to accede to the summons. When Justice Venkatachaliah stuck to his guns and directed the police to bring him before court, Singh came to me. I said the judge is not going to haul you up for contempt. He came to the Supreme Court and sat with me.

The Bench assembled at 2 pm. CJI Venkatachaliah asked if the Speaker was in court and then proceeded to close the case, instead of hauling him up for contempt, Venugopal said.

Justice Venkatachaliah would have gone the full distance and hauled him up, if he hadn’t appeared before the court, the AG added.

Senior Advocate R. Venkataramani
Senior Advocate R. Venkataramani

In another lighter moment during the discussion, Senior Advocate R. Venkataramani remembered how he was asked by a senior colleague that Justice Venkatachaliah had asked him if Venkataramani was a Marxist (for writing a book on Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy), and he went to Justice Venkatachaliah’s house and was mistaken for a pandit by his help, when the jurist saw him, he started laughing saying this is no pandit, but he’s also not a Marxist.

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Venkataramani also recalled that Justice Venkatachaliah held Justice Krishna Iyer in very high regard and prostrated before him in Bangalore once. Justice Krishna Iyer had himself called Justice Venkatachaliah the great jurist of light and learning.

Gursharan Dhanjal, Vice Chairman of SKOCH Group, said the former CJI was the judges’ judge. His idiom was the law itself. He was not only good in decision-making, but was a thorough gentleman.

He had an astoundingly brilliant reverence, when it came to delivering judgements. This man had made the successful journey from the bar to the bench, proving his mantle on every given occasion.

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