Former CJI Bhagwati, who regretted verdict during Emergency, no more

He was a member of a five-judge Supreme Court bench, which had ruled in favour of the government’s stand that a person arrested during the Emergency was not entitled to fundamental rights.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: June 16, 2017 8:53 am
CJI P Bhagwati, P Bhagwati dead, former CJI P Bhagwati dead, former cji p n bhagwati dead, bhagwati, bhagwati dead, Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati death, india news, latest news Bhagwati and Justices A N Ray, Y V Chandrachud and M H Beg had upheld the government’s move to suspend fundamental rights during the period while Justice H R Khanna was the lone dissenter.

Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati, 95, who introduced the concept of Public Interest Litigations (PILs), passed away in New Delhi on Thursday. He was a member of a five-judge Supreme Court bench, which had ruled in favour of the government’s stand that a person arrested during the Emergency was not entitled to fundamental rights. The question before the Supreme Court was whether it could admit a habeas corpus petition for a man arrested during the Emergency that Indira Gandhi’s government had declared in the 1970s.

Bhagwati and Justices A N Ray, Y V Chandrachud and M H Beg had upheld the government’s move to suspend fundamental rights during the period while Justice H R Khanna was the lone dissenter. The verdict is seen as one of the darkest in the Indian legal history.

Bhagwati regretted the verdict over three decades later. “I was wrong. The majority judgment was not the correct judgment. If it was open to me to come to a fresh decision in that case, I would agree with what Justice Khanna did. I am sorry (for the judgment),’’ he told The Indian Express in 2011. Bhagwati added that he did not know why he had yielded to his colleagues. “Initially, I was not in favour of the majority view. But ultimately, I do not know why I was persuaded to agree with them. I was a novice at that time, a young judge… I was handling this type of litigation for the first time. But it was an act of weakness on my part.”

But he earned acclaim with the introduction of PILs in 1986 while he was the CJI to protect interests of the marginalised and less privileged. PILs have over the years redefined judicial activism.

A Padma Vibhushan recipient, Bhagwati was born in 1921 and rose to become the 17th CJI from July 12, 1985 to December 20, 1986. Bhagwati, who was educated in Mumbai and started his legal career at the Bombay High Court, is survived by his wife, Prabhavatinand, and three daughters.

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  1. S
    Samiul Hassan Quadri, Bikaner
    Jun 16, 2017 at 6:46 pm
    With the passing away of the former Chief Justice of India, PN Bhagwati, the Indian nation has lost an erudite scholar and humanitarian who endeavoured to make justice accessible to the poorest of poor, underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society. Justice Bhagwati gained fame for ruling that the prisoners too have fundamental rights. He was a true patriot who enthusiastically took part in India's struggle for freedom, and happily went to jail for the exalted cause. Introduction of the Public Interest Litigations was the crowning achievement of Justice Bhagwati. He will be remembered by the posterity as a pioneer of judicial activism.
    Reply
    1. K
      Kunjan
      Jun 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm
      What is the necessity for such a long obituary for a judge who should be the custodian of justice, denied even the fundamental rights to the citizens during the dark days of emergency. As an after thought he expressed remorse which is not in good taste. Anyway, he is no more.
      Reply
      1. S
        sravan
        Jun 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm
        Four murders happened at Puttapurthi when Mr. Bhagavathi was at helm at Sai baba sanithanam. Till date I think no hearing and do not know where the case is. The media should have not covered his death news.
        Reply
        1. N
          N S
          Jun 16, 2017 at 11:30 am
          This man is remembered because he was one among the many Left leaning persons elevated to the SC. True to that he sided with the a most corrupt regime to deny basic human rights to Indians. His subsequent regret is an after thought since the citizens of this country repudiated the ideology he supported. He was rewarded the post of CJI for the services rendered. The PIL is an instrument of elites to harass the govt they dislike.
          Reply
          1. S
            Sheriff
            Jun 16, 2017 at 10:23 am
            How many 1000 crores does he own in said baba trust. But all is forgotten in this Brahamanized India.
            Reply
            1. A
              Against traitors
              Jun 16, 2017 at 1:05 pm
              Sai Baba was not a brahmin. ! Understand one thing. Your own community people go to his multi speciality hospital and undergo major heart surgery for free. Think about your Dawood, terrorists etc. who kill people everyday.
              Reply
            2. P
              P.R.Joshi
              Jun 16, 2017 at 9:32 am
              It has been hard for me to have a 'like'for PNB, ever since taht that fateful siding of him with Mrs Gandhi. He colluded with her in inflicting insult on judiciary, and thereby, on his own self. This is, notwithstanding whatever he might have done for PIL.
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                Subhash Chaturvedi
                Jun 16, 2017 at 9:12 am
                He admitted he was wrong only when wheels of power changed at Centre. Habeas Corpus is one of fundamental values of any civilized society. Taking away this right from the citizens was like converting them into vegetable. Only Justice HR Khanna stood up the juggernaut of dictatorial power . The citizens of this country owe it to him ( Justice Khanna) that there was one who stood up for them when all other so called giants started crawling. In fact we need a memorial for him in the name of preservation of human rights and freedom of citizens , and this memorial should be in the parliament.
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                1. P
                  P.R.Joshi
                  Jun 16, 2017 at 9:34 am
                  You're just right, Chaturvedi ji.i can't agree more.
                  Reply
                  1. J
                    Jatin Sutaria
                    Jun 16, 2017 at 11:02 am
                    Yes. So true. But the irony is that bugger got a Padma award while Justice Khanna is long forgotten.
                    Reply
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