Supreme Court judge Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar passes away

He was born in 1958 and enrolled as an advocate in 1980 and was the ninth seniormost judge of the Supreme Court

Updated - April 25, 2021 05:14 pm IST

Published - April 25, 2021 02:14 am IST - New Delhi

Mohan M. Shantanagoudar. File.

Mohan M. Shantanagoudar. File.

Supreme Court judge Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar died at a private hospital in Gurugram on Sunday.

He was 62. He was admitted to the Medanta Hospital on developing a lung complication and was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit. There is no official confirmation whether Justice Shantanagoudar’s demise was related to COVID-19.

He was the ninth seniormost judge of the Supreme Court.

Justice Shantanagoudar was born in 1958 and enrolled as an advocate in 1980. After a brief spell of practice in Dharwad, he joined the chamber of advocate (as he was then) Shivaraj V. Patil, who became a Supreme Court judge. Justice Shantanagoudar specialised in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional matters. Among other offices, Justice Shantanagoudar had served as State Public Prosecutor of Karnataka from 1999 to 2002. He was appointed permanent judge of the Karnataka High Court in September 2004. He was appointed Chief Justice of Kerala High Court in 2016 and was elevated to the Supreme Court on February 17, 2017 and was scheduled to retire only on May 4, 2023.

Justice Shantanagoudar was known as a judge who spoke his mind. He never minced his words both in his judgments nor in his public addresses.

Land acquisition case

He came into public attention in the Supreme Court when he refused to agree with the majority opinion rendered by Justice Arun Mishra on the Bench in a land acquisition case. Justice Shantanagoudar reasoned that a contradictory opinion has already been rendered by a co-ordinate Bench. Hence, the question should be referred to a larger Bench for a final and authoritative decision. The controversy was settled only after then Chief Justice Dipak Misra referred the case to a Constitution Bench.

Equally vocal outside the courtroom, in 2019, Justice Shantanagoudar told an assembly of law students in Kochi that it was time to speak against acts of spreading misinformation and bigotry among the poor and vulnerable. He highlighted the role played by mass communication technology in this phenomenon.

A clutch of his recent judgments and orders in Supreme Court bear witness to Justice Shantanagoudar’s pronounced penchant for grant of personal liberty.

He held in a judgment that an accused has an “indefeasible right” to bail if the probe agency failed to complete the investigation on time. Senior journalist and Padma Shri awardee Vinod Dua was protected from arrest in a sedition case.

He had held that mental illness developed after conviction in a condemned prisoner would act as a mitigating factor. Justice Shantanagoudar reasoned that post-conviction illness would deprive the prisoner of his ability to “understand the implications of his actions and the consequence it entails”.

Police brutality

A Bench of which Justice Shantanagoudar was part of had lashed out at police brutality. It had called for “democratic policing”. “Those who are called upon to administer the criminal law, must bear, in mind, that they have a duty not merely to the individual accused before them, but also to the State and to the community at large”.

In one of his last judgments, the judge sought to protect the poor man’s earnings by making the locker system in banks more accountable, especially in the light of high-tech bank thefts.

Justice Shantanagoudar had said that banks could not wash their hands of any liability if any harm was caused to their customers’ lockers or safe deposits in an era when miscreants could manipulate technology to gain access to electronically-operated bank lockers. The judgment had given the Reserve Bank of India six months to lay down “comprehensive directions mandating the steps to be taken by banks with respect to locker facility/safe deposit facility management”.

Another instance that Justice Shantanagoudar did not shy from taking on big companies was his judgment which came as a shock for online platforms like Google. A Bench of which he was part of had held that internet intermediaries could not be protected from criminal defamation cases registered against them prior to October 27, 2009. It was only on October 27, 2009 that the Parliament finally moved in and amended the Information Technology Act of 2000 to protect online intermediaries from liability for criminally defamatory content published in them by third parties.

The judge was also part of the verdict which brought deemed universities under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Justice Shantanagoudar was one of the nine judges on the Bench which was formed by former CJI S.A. Bobde to examine the larger questions of faith, religious freedom and essential religious practices. The hearing, however, never took off.

Chief Justice N.V. Ramana condoled the passing away of Justice Shantanagoudar on Sunday.

“I was hoping for his speedy and complete recovery and his return to the Bench at the earliest. The news of his passing has come as a rude shock. I have not only lost a valued colleague but a good friend. We shared a bench for close to a year which brought us closer. I will dearly miss our conversations, his warmth, wit and humour. My heart goes out to his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace."

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.