Justice Pardiwala is in line to be CJI

Justice Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala, to be sworn in as Supreme Court judge along with Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia on Monday, will be the sixth apex court judge from the Parsi community.

In line to be the third Chief Justice of India from the community, Justice Pardiwala would be the top judge for a little over two years and lead the court into the next decade.

The first member of the Parsi community to serve on the Supreme Court was Justice Dinshah Pirosha Madon in the early 1980s. The two Chief Justices of India, Justices Sam Piroj Bharucha and Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia, were appointed top judges almost 10 years apart. Justice Bharucha was appointed CJI in 2001 and Justice Kapadia in 2010.

Then there were the two ‘Narimans’. Justice Sam Nariman Variava, once a part-time professor of law at Sydenham College in Bombay, was Supreme Court judge between 2000 and 2005. A decade later, the court witnessed in Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman a brilliant spell and a flurry of judgments in fields of law as varied as death penalty review, free speech and insolvency laws, only to name a few.

Decline invitations

George H. Gadbois Jr.’s ‘Judges of the Supreme Court of India 1950-1989’ mentioned that Justice Madon was not the first Parsi to be invited to serve on the apex court Bench. “H.M. Seervai and N.A. Palkhivala, in the late 1950s, declined invitations, as did Fali Nariman in the late 1970s”.

But Justice Madon, who had aspired to be a journalist and writer but took to the law as his father thought the former jobs were “low-paying positions”, accepted the court’s invitation to the Bench in 1983 and served briefly as a judge in the Supreme Court till his retirement in 1986.

Justice Madon faced odds with equanimity both on and off the Bench. When World War II spoilt his plans to earn his barrister credentials from London, he did his law at Government Law College, Bombay. Later as a Bombay High Court judge, he championed the right to free speech against censorship during the Emergency. Post his retirement, Justice Madon wrote a cutting resignation letter to the V.P. Singh government when his inquiry commission into the Meham constituency election violence was not provided office, staff or budget.

Stern, fair judge

Then came Justice Bharucha, who went on to be the 30th Chief Justice of India. Media reports of the time of his appointment as CJI showed Justice Bharucha described in the legal circles as a stern and fair judge who kept his distance from the political establishment. When the Supreme Court pulled up author Arundhati Roy for her writing on the Narmada dam issue, Justice Bharucha gave a dissenting opinion, saying the “court’s shoulders are broad enough to shrug off their comments and focus should not shift from the rehabilitation of the oustees”. Justice Bharucha’s judgment led to the dismissal of Jayalalithaa as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. The judge had held that no person convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment of not less than two years can be appointed or continue as Chief Minister.

Justice Variava, born in 1940, was a lawyer who practiced in the Bombay High Court and appeared in the city civil court. He was appointed as Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court in 1986 and made a permanent judge in 1987. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court in 1999 and elevated to the Supreme Court as judge in March 2000.

Justice Kapadia was appointed the 38th Chief Justice of India. A strict disciplinarian with interests as varied from Theoretical Physics to Buddhist philosophy, he was renowned for his statistical acumen. Justice Kapadia refused to budge in the face of a concerted move to stop the Allahabad High Court from delivering the Ayodhya title suits’ judgment. He had held that judicial functioning cannot be held at ransom by threats of violence.

Justice Nariman, who was Solicitor General of India and the fifth lawyer in the nation’s history to be directly appointed as judge of the Supreme Court in 2014, was described by his fellow judges as a “one-man army” whose judgments upheld free speech in social media, decriminalised homosexuality, allowed entry to women into the Sabarimala temple, pulled up political parties for fielding candidates with criminal pasts. He guided the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code through its infant years.



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