Sriram Panchu, 66, commenced his career in the mid-1970s and practiced under noted lawyer and former advocate general of Tamil Nadu Govind Swaminathan. He was nominated for the judgeship in Madras High Court at least twice, in 2001 and 2003. In the first instance, the entire list was returned over procedural issues, said a senior judge serving in the High Court then.
Panchu himself withdrew his nomination the second time citing lack of transparency in the selection process.
J Jayalalithaa was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu then. Panchu had appeared against J Jayalalitha in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case.
He started focusing on ‘mediation’ since the 1990s, having authored two books. The foreword to his second book, “Mediation: Practice and Law”, published by Butterworths, LexisNexis in 2011, was written by Fali Nariman. The foreword to this book’s second edition was by former Chief Justice of India T S Thakur.
In 2010, he was appointed a mediator by the Supreme Court to resolve a long-standing boundary dispute between Assam and Nagaland. The next year, the apex court asked him to mediate a dispute involving religious ceremonies in Parsi temples.
To a question on mediation in the Ayodhya land dispute case when several other cases related to it were still pending, Panchu told The Indian Express, “Very important questions. But let me not comment on that now.”
He later said, “It is a very serious responsibility given to be my the honourable Supreme Court. I will do my best.”
Two days before his appointment as one of the three mediators, jurists and lawyers in Chennai felicitated Panchu for having been conferred Lawyers of India Day award by the Bar Association of India. While Justice Vineet Kothari hailed Panchu to be an institution by himself for his authority on mediation, other senior judges and lawyers too praised his long career starting from the days he specialised in consumer rights movement.