Jus­tice PN Bhag­wati, for­mer chief jus­tice of In­dia, dies at 95

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For­mer chief jus­tice of In­dia PN Bhag­wati passed away on 15 June in the na­tional cap­i­tal. He was 95. Bhag­wati, who was In­dia’s chief jus­tice from July 1985 to De­cem­ber 1986, is widely cred­ited with in­tro­duc­ing pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion (PIL) along with his brother, Jus­tice VR Kr­ishna Iyer. He was a judge of the Gu­jarat high court for 13 years and served as chief jus­tice of the high court from 1967 to 1973. Sub­se­quently, he was el­e­vated to the apex court. Af­ter his re­tire­ment, Bhag­wati held sev­eral key of­fices on ju­di­cial re­forms and le­gal aid in Gu­jarat. Apart from pi­o­neer­ing PILs, Bhag­wati is re­mem­bered for sev­eral im­por­tant rul­ings on is­sues re­lated to fun­da­men­tal rights. In the Maneka Gandhi pass­port im­pound­ing case in 1978, Bhag­wati dealt ex­ten­sively with the right to life, hold­ing that a per­son’s move­ment can­not be re­stricted with­out due process by the state. His rul­ing in the Me­naka Gandhi case was a de­par­ture from his views in the ADM Ja­balpur ver­sus Shivkant Shukla case, pop­u­larly known as the Habeas Cor­pus case, in which Bhag­wati con­curred with the ma­jor­ity view that a per­son’s right to not be un­law­fully de­tained can be sus­pended by the state dur­ing emer­gency. “The demise of Jus­tice PN Bhag­wati is sad­den­ing. He was a stal­wart of In­dia’s le­gal fra­ter­nity. My deep­est con­do­lences. Jus­tice PN Bhag­wati’s re­mark­able con­tri­bu­tions made our ju­di­cial sys­tem more ac­ces­si­ble and gave voice to mil­lions,” Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi said on Twit­ter. Jus­tice Bhag­wati was the chair­man of Voice So­ci­ety’s om­buds­man com­mit­tee. He is sur­vived by his wife and three daugh­ters.

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