Justice Iyer, a people's judge

Justice Iyer, a people's judge

Eminent jurist V R Krishna Iyer, who passed away on Thursday, was known as a compassionate judge who changed the way Supreme Court looked at cases involving the underprivileged and disadvantaged. A leftist at heart, many eyebrows were raised when he praised Narendra Modi all of a sudden.

Iyer, who turned 100 last month, would remain etched in people’s minds for his remarkable order of 1975 in the case of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by granting only a conditional stay on a Allahabad HC order terming her election void but barring her from participating in debates or voting in Parliament. The interim order though had led to proclamation of emergency a day after on June 25, 1975.

Through his several revolutionary judgments, he set new benchmarks as far as Constitutional values, social justice and the rule of law were concerned. He blossomed into an iconic and inspirational figure both nationally and internationally.

Great erudition

His verdict in Charles Sobhraj Vs Superintendent of Central Jail in 1978 declaring that handcuffing is offensive to human dignity spawned the judiciary to interpret Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution, taking it to new heights. His ruling discarding the principle of locus standi in matters of public interest litigation led the Supreme Court to put the principle of welfare state to some real test in the years to come.

He was sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court on July 17, 1973 and retired at the age of 65 on November 14, 1980.

Iyer, who died in a Kochi hospital, was also known for his acerbic remarks. His letters to Modi praising him as Gujarat chief minister for his “positive qualities of nationalism and the comity of cosmic dimension” and for “upholding the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and the Constitution of India against the menace of alcoholism” virtually stirred up a hornet’s nest. In hindsight, one could say he visualised the emergence of Modi on a bigger political platform.

Known for his people friendly approach, Justice Iyer wrote about 400 judgments as SC judge. He had authored several books, clearly establishing himself as a distinguished jurist of the country.

Political stint

Iyer became an MLA from then Madras Assembly constituency in 1952 and was appointed minister in the first elected communist government of E M S Namboodiripad in Kerala in 1957.

 He was an important force behind key decisions in the state’s history such as the land reforms law.

After he lost elections in 1965, Iyer started concentrating on his legal practise and was elevated as judge of the Kerala High Court in 1968 and to the Supreme Court in 1973.

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