Familial histories, professional graphs lie entwined in service of the Supreme Court

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, is the son of former CJI, Y.V. Chandrachud. Justice B.V. Nagarathna is the daughter of former CJI, E.S. Venkataramiah.

October 25, 2022 09:51 pm | Updated October 26, 2022 10:03 am IST - NEW DELHI

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud will be the 50th CJI. Justice B.V. Nagarathna will be India’s first woman CJI in 2027. File

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud will be the 50th CJI. Justice B.V. Nagarathna will be India’s first woman CJI in 2027. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The decade is set to see two Chief Justices of India (CJI) whose fathers once headed the Supreme Court.

CJI-designate, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, is the son of former CJI, Y.V. Chandrachud. Justice B.V. Nagarathna is the daughter of former CJI, E.S. Venkataramiah. Justice Nagarathna is in line to be the first woman CJI in 2027 for a month-long tenure.

Justice Venkataramiah, according to George H. Gadbois Jr’s ‘Judges of the Supreme Court of India 1950-1989’, was initially to serve as CJI for only 23 days but his immediate predecessor, Justice R.S. Pathak, was elected to the International Court of Justice and resigned on June 18, 1989, thus extending Justice Venkataramiah’s tenure as the 19th CJI to six months from June 19,1989 till his retirement in December 1989.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud’s father was the 16th CJI and the longest-serving one for over seven years, from February 22, 1978, to July 11, 1985. Justice Chandrachud, who will retire as the 50th CJI on November 10, 2024, would be succeeded to the top post by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, a nephew of Justice H.R. Khanna, whose lone dissent, which upheld personal liberty and rule of law in the Emergency-era ADM Jabalpur case, is reported to have cost him his Chief Justiceship in 1977. Justice Khanna was the Law Minister for three days in the Chaudhary Charan Singh government in July 1979 when the elder Justice Chandrachud was CJI.

Justice Nagarathna’s father, Justice Venkataramiah, was sworn in as Supreme Court judge on March 8, 1979 when Justice Y.V. Chandrachud was the CJI.

But they are not the only Supreme Court judges whose familial histories and professional graphs lie entwined in service of the court.

A nephew of the first Chief Justice of India, Sir H.J. Kania, served as Chief Justice of India almost 40 years later. Justice M.H. Kania was the 23rd CJI from December 1991 to November 1992.

Another uncle-nephew combination of CJIs could be found in the 21st CJI, Ranganath Misra, and the 45th Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra.

There is also a grandfather-grandson combination in Justice B.P. Sinha and Justice B.P. Singh. Justice Sinha was the 6th CJI while Justice Singh served as a Supreme Court judge between December 2001 and July 2007.

Access to justice

The Supreme Court has also seen the father serve as its judge while, years later, the son becomes the CJI. Justice P.N. Bhagwati is hailed for championing access to justice to people denied basic human rights. He was the 17th CJI. His father, Justice N.H. Bhagwati, served as Supreme Court judge for seven years between 1952 and 1959.

The court has further witnessed the father, in this case, Justice K.S. Hegde, superseded for Chief Justiceship. His son, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, became a Supreme Court judge years later. The elder Hegde resigned with Justices J.M. Shelat and A.N. Grover after they were superseded. All three were part of the majority opinion on the 13-judge Bench which upheld the inviolability of the Basic Structure of the Constitution in the historic Kesavananda Bharati judgment of April 1973. He later served as Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Justice Santosh Hegde was apex court judge from January 1999 to June 2005.

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