The Supreme Court Bar Association and fellow judges on Friday bid a warm farewell to Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam, who retires on Saturday after a successful tenure of about seven years as Supreme Court judge. He leaves an indelible imprint as a humane and unassuming judge. Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, who is retiring on Sunday, was also given a farewell.
CJI-designate R.M. Lodha praised Justice Sathasivam for his simplicity and commitment to justice. He said, “The Supreme Court represents no class, no caste, no majority, no minority and I would try to ensure a balance to all.”
Justice Sathasivam explained the steps he took for speedy disposal of cases and efforts to reduce pendency. He said, “The public always has a compelling interest in justice delivery. We must not only strive towards excellence but also be open and as accessible as possible.” He wanted the Chief Justices of the High Courts to ensure that the process of selection of judges was done progressively and not hurried through thoughtlessly.
Justice Sathasivam was known for his honesty and integrity and he endeared himself to members of the Bar with a smiling face, even when he dismissed a case. Lawyers are unanimous that his absence will be felt.
Justice Sathasivam, who was appointed Supreme Court judge in August 2007, gave several landmark judgments, which included a valiant pronouncement in the matter of Pakistani national Mohammad Khalil Chisti vs. the State of Rajasthan. He set aside Mr. Chisti’s conviction under Section 302 of the IPC and allowed him to go back to his country.
The CJI said there should not be any discrimination in fixation of pension when a person who occupied the constitutional office of High Court judge retired.
Heading a Bench, Justice Sathasivam commuted the death sentence awarded to Devendra Pal Singh Bhullar in the 1993 Delhi blast case to life imprisonment, holding that inordinate and unexplained delay in disposal of a mercy petition by the President and mental illness were grounds for commutation. He laid down the law on delay in disposal of a mercy petition by the President, holding that even death-row convicts were entitled to life and liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.
Among the notable judgments delivered by him on election laws are rejection of a candidate’s nomination for non-disclosure of information in affidavit.
In the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Justice Sathasivam first ordered commutation of the death sentence of three convicts to life term. On Friday, he referred the issues to be adjudicated by a five-judge Constitution Bench.