After having celebrated his 100th birth anniversary on November 15 this year, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer breathed his last at 3:30 pm yesterday, December 4. Hospitalized on Friday, Iyer had been suffering from age-related ailments who finally succumbed to multiple organ failure. A champion for causes pertaining to social justice, connoisseur of civil liberties and an eminent jurist, the former Supreme Court judge is being mourned by not only his loved ones but the entire nation. Often known as the crimson sun of justice, his demise is synonymous to the end of an inimitable phenomenon to have pervaded through the legal system in India.
The life that Justice Iyer led is nothing less than extraordinary. An MLA, the minister of law in the first ever Communist government of Kerala and a judge, he has been a doyen for the cause of the masses. In 1973, he was promoted to the apex court where he made groundbreaking judgments until he retired in 1980. A maverick that humanized law in India, he led the judiciary to take decisions at a time when India was under tremendous political and legal mayhem. One of his many landmark verdicts covers the historic Emergency Era that India has ever seen.
Re-writing the history of the nation, he rejected the former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi’s application for unconditional stay against the verdict declared by Allahabad High Court, which found her guilty of practicing corruption during elections. Winning him enormous criticism as well as appreciation. Iyer played a vital role in adorning the Supreme Court with its fine hue of authority and dignity. “In the best traditions of the judiciary, Krishna Iyer J. granted a conditional stay of the Order under appeal. Although he had been reminded by her eminent counsel Mr N A Palkhivala, ‘that the nation was solidly behind (her) as prime minister’ and that ‘there were momentous consequences, disastrous to the country, if anything less than the total suspension of the Order under appeal were made’,” said H. M. Seervai, the illustrious constitutional lawyer.
Justice Iyer never looked back as he went all guns blazing in announcing pioneering verdicts one after the other. He earned a majestic place among prominent legal scholars like Lord Denning and Earl Warren, former Chief Justice of the United States. He was instrumental in banning the scheduled handcuffing of prisoners and in determining the powers of the cabinet with reference to those of the President in the Shamser Singh case.
“When Krishna Iyer speaks, the nation listens,” said another notable jurist Fali S. Nariman.
Centering all his attention on the greater good of the citizens, Iyer has been a revolutionary in interpreting the guarantees that the Constitution of India granted, such as Article 21 which states the right to life and personal liberty. He fashioned the sense of delivering justice according to the times he lived in. Being a robust figure as a social activist, he worked in favor of the welfare of common man till his last breath. The judicial remedies that he designed have been sought since time immemorial.
A luminary with admirable proficiency in the English language and Malayalam, his demise is in many ways, the demise of the eccentric who revolutionized the world of law with his incredible knowledge of law. The Bharat Ratna and “Bhishma Pitahmah” of Indian Judiciary, Iyer’s legacy of path-breaking judgments will always be a lighthouse of guidance to aspiring lawyers of the nation.
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