Justice Madan B Lokur’s precise manner — and manner of speaking — came through clearly in his orders. It may have had something to do with his being an editor of the Indian Law Review in 1983 and, before that, an associate editor of the often irreverential Kooler Talk (KT) at Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College.
Justice Lokur retired from the Supreme Court Sunday, where he made his mark over many years but most recently, on the ‘Social Justice Bench’ where he heard cases related to farmers, minimum wages, migrant labour, and construction workers, who work with minimal legal protection. On the encounter killings in Manipur, he took the firm stand that the quest for justice would not be obscured by the fog of jingoism.
He was a senior advocate for two years before he became an Additional Judge in 1999. He went on to serve in the High Courts of Delhi, Gauhati and Andhra Pradesh. His tenure in the Supreme Court began in June 2012.
Justice Lokur is known to have been persuaded to join the judiciary by the late Justice Sunanda Bhandare of the Delhi High Court. Recently, in his address to the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice Lokur registered his appreciation and gratitude for several seniors. He thanked Justices S N Bariava, Arijit Pasayat and S B Sinha, and named three “Chiefs” who left an impact on him and entrusted him with meaningful tasks — V N Khare, R C Lahoti, and Y K Sabharwal, Chief Justices of India in the period 2002-07. Profs N R Madhava Menon and Mohan Gopal are said to have influenced Justice Lokur’s thinking on judicial education.
In the NJAC judgment (2015), Justice Lokur underlined the importance of transparency, in both the process of selection of judges and in other matters of the court. In January this year, he joined three other seniormost judges of the Supreme Court at an extraordinary press conference to mount a virtual revolt against the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, revealing that he was open to going ahead with unconventional actions, if he felt the situation so warranted. Justice Lokur has been seen as a close associate of the present Chief Justice, Ranjan Gogoi — the two Justices have known each other through their graduation years, and at Delhi University’s Law Faculty.
Justice Lokur’s preoccupation with e-courts was about improving the justice delivery system as an essential concern in the Supreme Court. His interest in issues of social justice and environment, apart from constitutional matters, gave him an unusual niche expertise during his six and a half years in the court. The efforts of the e-Committee to inform litigants about their case and bring transparency led to two national awards, the second of which, for the Best Mobile App in the Digital India Awards 2018, will be given on January 17.