In the farewell function for Supreme Court judge F M I Kalifulla in June 2016, the then Chief Justice of India, Justice T S Thakur, had pointed out that the then Collegium had transferred the outgoing judge of the top court as the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court as a step towards national integration. In his speech, former CJI Thakur had called upon Justice Kalifulla’s role in “restoring faith in the minds of Kashmiris” by travelling across the state and setting up legal aid clinics.
From Friday, Justice Kalifulla will embark upon another challenging journey, where he will head the panel of mediators, along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, to find a solution to the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya.
Justice Kalifulla is son of late Justice M Fakkir Muhammad and comes from Karaikudi, Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu.
An active labour law practitioner, he was elevated as a permanent judge of Madras High Court in March 2000. He served as the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court from September 18, 2011 to April 2, 2012, when he was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court.
At the Supreme Court, Justice Kalifulla was known for the landmark BCCI judgment that he passed along with Justice Thakur. The judgment, delivered a day before his retirement, was a verdict that directed the cricket Board to carry out sweeping changes in its structure and functioning.
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Justice Thakur had said during Justice Kalifulla’s farewell function: “While deciding the BCCI matter, I felt like I was sitting beside a former Indian cricket captain —- that much insight was provided by Kalifulla. He has so much insight into the working of BCCI. I am eternally grateful to him for helping me, and the game as such in regaining its glory.
“Nothing is forever, nothing is eternal, but I think my short association with Justice Kalifulla will stay forever.”
Justice Kalifulla was also part of the constitution bench which had heard the issue of remission of sentences of those involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The judgment, delivered in 2015, was a setback to the Tamil Nadu government. The Supreme Court order stated that the state government has no power to order suo motu release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case —- Murugan, Santhan, Periarivalan (whose death sentence was commuted to life) and that of Nalini, Robert Pius, Jayakumar and Ravichandran, serving life terms, by granting remission.
In the 258-page verdict, the five-judge constitution bench — comprising then Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices Ibrahim Kalifulla, A M Sapre, Pinaki Ghose and U U Lalit — had also observed that in cases investigated by the CBI or other Central agencies, the power to grant remission by the appropriate government will only mean the Central government.
The state government initiating the process of remission should consult the Centre and effective consultation would mean the concurrence of the Centre, the court held.
As a High Court judge, Justice Kalifulla had passed another landmark verdict relating to introduction of Vedic Astrology as a course of scientific study in Indian Universities. The apex court had upheld the order passed by Justice Kalifulla.