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Leaving a light, Justice Krishna Iyer passes away

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer used to spend his evenings with a walk along the banks of the Kochi backwaters. He has to his credit around 70 books, mostly on law, and four travelogues. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer used to spend his evenings with a walk along the banks of the Kochi backwaters. He has to his credit around 70 books, mostly on law, and four travelogues. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

Eminent jurist and former Supreme Court judge, Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, passed away at a private hospital in Kochi around 3.30 p.m. on Thursday. He died due to renal and cardiac failure, hospital sources said. He was hospitalised for a fortnight.

Justice Iyer, known for his forthright views, turned 100 recently. He was sworn in as the judge of the Supreme Court on July 17, 1973 and retired at the age of 65 on November14, 1980.

Born to a leading criminal lawyer V.V. Rama Ayyar in 1915 in Thalassery, Justice Iyer had his education at the Basel Mission School, Thalassery, Victoria College, Palakkad, Annamalai University and Madras Law College. After starting legal practice in 1937 under his father in the Thalassery courts, he used to appear for workers and peasants in several agrarian struggle-related cases in his early years of practice.

He became a member of the Madras Legislative Assembly in 1952. He held portfolios such as law, justice, home, irrigation, power, prisons, social welfare and inland navigation in the first Communist government in Kerala headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad that came to power in 1957. He was instrumental in passing several pieces of people-oriented legislations during his tenure as minister in the Communist government.

He resumed his legal practice in August 1959 and threw himself into the legal profession after he lost the 1965 Assembly election. He was appointed a judge of the Kerala High Court on July 2, 1968. He was elevated as Judge of the Supreme Court on July 17, 1973, and retired on November, 14, 1980. He served as a Member of the Law Commission from 1971 to 1973.

His landmark judgments include the Shamser Singh case which interpreted the powers of the Cabinet vis-à-vis the President, Maneka Gandhi case which gave a new dimension to Article 21, Ratlam Municipality case, and Muthamma's case. He had pushed for reformative theory, in contrast to deterrence theory in the criminal justice system. He also received brickbats for granting conditional stay on the Allahabad High Court verdict declaring former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha void.

In 2002, Justice Iyer was part of the citizen's panel that inquired into the Gujarat riots along with retired justice P.B. Sawant and others. He was conferred with Padma Vibhushan in the 1999. He had unsuccessfully contested to the post of President against Congress nominee late R. Venkitaraman in 1987. He also headed the Kerala Law Reform Commission in 2009. He has to his credit around 70 books, mostly on law, and four travelogues. Wandering in Many Worlds is his autobiography. He has also authored a book in Tamil, Neethimandramum Samanvya Manithanum.

He has been actively involved in social and political life after his retirement, almost till a few weeks when ill-health and advancing age took their toll on him. His 100th birthday was celebrated in Kochi last month and a number of programmes were organised by members of the legal fraternity, citizenry and his friends and well-wishers to felicitate him. Justice Iyer's wife predeceased him. He is survived by two sons.

The body of Justice Iyer will be taken to the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Kadavanthra, on Friday, where members of the general public will be able to pay homage to the departed jurist, said M.G.Rajamanikyam, Ernakulam district collector. The funeral will take place at Ravipuram crematorium at 6 p.m. on Friday, he said.



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Select articles by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer



"The best judge will have nothing to hide and everything to discover without fear or favour." >Read here


"A Bhopal tragedy of Hiroshima magnitude — I call it a ‘Bhoposhima' calamity caused by ‘gasassination.'" >Read here


"A commission to select judges will be an improvement on the collegium only if its members are of the highest standing." >Read here


"Why capital punishment should be given the death sentence." >Read here


"Judges are the spinal cord of the rule of law, and the final interpreters of the Constitution. Their judgments govern social and economic justice. But oftentimes, as Frankfurter pointed out, their failings show up." >Read here






On Justice Krishna Iyer



He spurned the lure of pelf and power and governmental patronage and became an unrivalled champion of social justice, constitutional values and the rule of law. He blossomed into an iconic and inspirational figure both nationally and internationally. >Read here


Luminaries in the field of jurisprudence paid glowing tributes to the former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer at a seminar organised to celebrate the 100th birthday of the eminent jurist. >Read here


Collection of letters by Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer released. >Read here


V.R. Krishna Iyer, who is described as a legend in terms of his knowledge of law, was feted for his many trailblazing judgments that have earned him a place among world-renowned legal scholars. >Read here




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Printable version | Aug 1, 2020 8:31:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Leaving-a-light-Justice-Krishna-Iyer-passes-away/article14580552.ece

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