Pioneer of judicial activism Justice P N Bhagwati passes away

Bhagwati played an instrumental role in introducing the concept of PILs in India.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Updated: June 16, 2017 12:21 am
PN Bhagwati was also instrumental in furthering the cause of prisoners when he ruled that they too enjoyed fundamental rights. (Image Source: ANI)

Former Chief Justice of India P N Bhagwati, considered a pioneer of judicial activism in the country for introducing the concept of PILs, died here today after brief illness, family sources said. Bhagwati, 95, is survived by his wife Prabhavati Bhagwati and three daughters. The funeral will be held on June 17, they said. The 17th Chief Justice of India, Bhagwati remained on the highest judicial post between July 1985 and December 1986.

He was a former Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court and was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in July 1973. As a Supreme Court judge, Bhagwati introduced the concepts of public interest litigation (PIL) and absolute liability to the Indian judicial system. As a champion of PILs, he had ruled there was no need for a person to have any locus standi (the right or capacity to bring an action or to appear in a court) to knock the doors of a court on the issue of fundamental rights.

He was also instrumental in furthering the cause of prisoners when he ruled that they too enjoyed fundamental rights. One of the important judgements pronounced by him was in the Maneka Gandhi passport impounding case in 1978 in which he elaborated the concept of right to life, and ruled that a person’s movement cannot be restricted. He had ruled that a person had full right to hold a passport.

The regional passport officer, New Delhi, had issued a letter dated 2/7/1977 addressed to Maneka Gandhi in which she was asked to surrender her passport under section 10(3)(c ) of the Passport Act in public interest within 7 days from the date of receipt of the letter. Maneka Gandhi had later filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the constitution in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the government of India claiming it violated her fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.

He was the lone dissenting judge in the Minerva Mill case who upheld the 42nd Constitution amendment during Emergency. It was struck down by a majority verdict. In the Minerva Mills case, the Supreme Court provided key clarifications on the interpretation of the basic structure doctrine. The court had ruled that the power of Parliament to amend the Constitution is limited by the Constitution. Hence Parliament cannot exercise this limited power to grant itself unlimited power.

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  1. P
    PREET KANWAR SINGH
    Jul 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm
    JUSTIVE BHAGWATI AND JUSTICE KRISHNA IYER WERE ONE OF THE GIANTS OF OUR JUDICIAL SYSYTEM ADDRESSING THE GREIVANCES THROUGH THEIR INTELLECTUAL LEGAL EDUCATION,INDESICRABLE AS THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS CANNOT BE GLORIFIED ON A PEACE OF PAPER but we can take a leap AND bound of their proficient,prophetic minds and their foresightedness of our country
    Reply
  2. S
    Sarma
    Jun 16, 2017 at 5:21 am
    I have been told from time to time that he tendered great service to the country. But I think none of that service can match the service he rendered India on the 15th of June, 2017
    Reply
  3. J
    J M Jeyaraj Jeyaraj
    Jun 16, 2017 at 4:46 am
    Every Citizen has the right to ensure the Cons utional functioning of authorities- a great quote from him.
    Reply
  4. G
    Gopal
    Jun 16, 2017 at 4:09 am
    The path to is paved with good intentions. PILs have destro our legal system and created a nexus between judges and outside political groups. In effect, it has turned judges into secret litigants who are arbitrating their own cases. No other country in the world follows this crazy scheme.
    Reply
  5. D
    Dipakkumar
    Jun 16, 2017 at 12:40 am
    A stalwart and true belver of Public Interst. I have seen many Justice Do not bother About Public Interest . I can name them. Without any Contempt , in true spirit against PIL and also Natural Justice which is a base of Public Interest.
    Reply
  6. T
    Truth
    Jun 16, 2017 at 12:21 am
    RIP 🙏🏼
    Reply
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