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A fourth-generation lawyer, Justice Jamshed Pardiwala set for SC step-up

The judge, described as 'soft-spoken, gentle, and upright', will take oath on Monday.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad |
Updated: May 9, 2022 1:51:49 pm
On Monday, Justice Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala of the Gujarat High Court is set to take oath as a Supreme Court judge along with Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia. (Gujarat High Court website)

His remarks on reservation may have invited the ire of several Rajya Sabha MPs in 2015, but during the Covid-19 lockdown and the pandemic’s second wave his injunctions and observations were a big reason why the Gujarat government was compelled to submit reports on action taken to help migrant labourers and patients.

On Monday, Justice Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala of the Gujarat High Court is set to take oath as a Supreme Court judge along with Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia. The Union Ministry of Law and Justice confirmed both their appointments on Saturday following the SC Collegium’s recommendation earlier in the week.

Justice Pardiwala was born on August 12, 1965, in Mumbai to a family of lawyers and grew up in the town of Valsad in south Gujarat. He completed his schooling in the town’s St Joseph’s Convent and graduated from JP Arts College there in 1985. A source close to the judge said that as a student he took a keen interest in sports and “played tennis”. The source added, “He studied in Gujarati medium throughout college and later gained proficiency in English.”

Justice Pardiwala studied law in the town’s KM Law College till 1988 and received his Sanad (a charter that lawyers need to practise law) on November 18, 1988. By the following year, he was a practising lawyer at the Valsad district court, said a source close to his family.

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At 56 years, Justice Pardiwala is among the youngest judges to be elevated to the Supreme Court. Senior Congress leader Gaurav Pandya said, “His father Burjorji Pardiwala was a Congress MLA and served as the Speaker of the seventh Gujarat Assembly (1989-1990) during the chief ministerships of Madhavsinh Solanki and Amarsinh Chaudhary.”
Justice Pardiwala’s great grandfather Navrojji Bhikhaji Pardiwala practised law in Valsad in 1894 while his grandfather Cawasji Navrojji Pardiwala joined the Valsad Bar in 1929 and practised law till 1958. His father Burjorji, who was proficient in civil and customs matters, joined the Bar in 1955 and even became the president of the Valsad District Bar Association, said Pandya who was the Association’s vice president at the time. With his mother still living in Valsad, the judge’s link to the town has remained strong to this day.

Justice Pardiwala shifted to the Gujarat High Court In September 1990 and began practising all the branches of law. He became a member of the Gujarat High Court Legal Services Authority and in 2002 he was appointed the standing counsel for the High Court and its subordinate courts. During this period, “he cleared nearly 1,200 cases that had piled up related to the court’s administrative functions”, said a colleague.

He was elevated as an Additional Judge of the High Court on February 17, 2011, and was confirmed as a permanent judge on January 28, 2013. There, Justice Pardiwala presided over criminal, civil, taxation, and commercial matters. He also adjudicated environmental matters and took up the Sabarmati pollution issue suo motu. A source close to Justice Pardiwala described him as a “judge of the masses” who is “soft-spoken, gentle, and upright”.

Rajya Sabha controversy

In 2015, 58 Rajya Sabha members petitioned Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairperson Mohammad Hamid Ansari to initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Pardiwala for his “unconstitutional” remarks on reservation while hearing a petition by Patidar leader Hardik Patel and others to quash sedition charges against them. The judge initially observed that in his opinion “reservation and corruption are two things that have not allowed the country to progress in the right direction”. Following the petition by the members of the Upper House of Parliament, he expunged his remarks and later deleted them through a “speaking to minutes” order.

The judge, in May 2020, headed a Division Bench that heard a public interest litigation (PIL) plea on the Gujarat government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. The Bench compared the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital to a “dungeon” and did not agree with the state government’s narrative that all was well. Days later, following a roster change on the last working day of the week, Justice Pardiwala was shuffled out of the Bench.

The judge, who is part of around 1,012 reportable judgments on varied subjects, will serve in the Supreme Court till his retirement in 2030.

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