Glowing tributes to former Supreme Court judge on his 98th birthday
Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer’s life, his contributions to the nation on several fronts, and his 98 birthday was celebrated on Friday by his friends and associates at a function here in Delhi organised by the Capital Foundation.
The former Chief Justice of India, G.B. Patnaik, recalled his contribution towards expanding several areas of jurisprudence including the rights of prisoners and the labour class, and his opposition to capital punishment and preventive detention. “His theory of ‘bail, not jail’ was ruled by his belief in safeguarding personal liberties of citizens,” Justice Patnaik said.
The former Election Commissioner G.V.G. Krishnamurthy recalled Justice Iyer’s innings as a politician and legislator in the Kerala Assembly, where he was instrumental in passing the historic land reform legislation as a Law Minister. Mr. Krishnamurthy said he was constantly thinking of how to end exploitation of the weaker sections of society.
“People who get their reputation by holding a high office will be forgotten when they demit office, but people who earned their reputation through their contributions to humanity will always be remembered.”
The former Editor of The Hindu N. Ravi, who was awarded the Capital Foundation’s Silver Jubilee Award for his contribution to journalism, said that Justice Iyer’s contribution to public policy debates through his letters and columns written for The Hindu had a tremendous impact on many issues. Mr. Ravi said Justice Iyer, in a message from Kochi, had asked him to convey to those attending his birthday celebrations “to add to justice and compassion” in society. “As a judge, he wore his compassion on his sleeve. He avoided any pretence of ideological neutrality and always took the side of the underprivileged and downtrodden.”
The former chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Mohini Giri, while expressing regret at the inability of the NCW and other national commissions to fulfil even a part of its obligations, made an impassioned plea for following Justice Iyer’s principles in public life.
Haryana Central University Vice-Chancellor Mool Chand Sharma said “courage, conviction, commitment, and craftsmanship” were four qualities that a judge required. “While some judges may have one, or two, or three of these qualities, Justice Iyer had all four. That is why he could write all kinds of jurisprudence. The fourth quality — craftsmanship — refers to his ability to write judgments that pushed the frontiers of jurisprudence,” said Prof. Sharma. He recalled his commitment to social justice even at the cost of incurring hostility from the legal fraternity. “He believed that law was meant to serve the ‘last, least, and lost’ and that was his constituency,” Prof. Sharma added.
Senior advocate Fali S. Nariman said Justice Iyer exuded “remarkable persona” as a judge and what set him apart was his compassion towards human beings and interest in their well-being.
The former Governor of Karnataka T.N. Chaturvedi, who presided over the function, recapped Justice Iyer’s career as a politician, judge, jurist and public intellectual, noting that he had excelled and left his imprint of his thought and actions in each of these fields.
Vinod Sethi, secretary-general of the Capital Foundation and Justice Iyer’s longtime associate welcomed the gathering.