The judiciary’s conscience keeper

Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma was a colossus among judges. He set very high standards of integrity, which he never digressed from and never permitted anyone else to digress from. He was instrumental in ensuring that I became chief justice even without ever meeting me in person. After retirement, he refused all assignments where money was involved.

His conduct as judge remains a model for how judges should keep a distance from other organs of the state. His post-retirement life shows people of his stature have much to give back to society, even without holding a government position. He was truly the judiciary's conscience-keeper.

His lucid and landmark judgments, particularly the Vishakha judgment relating to sexual harassment of a woman at the workplace, and the judgment in S R Bommai versus Union of India, where a nine-judge bench ruled that the President could dissolve a state assembly only after parliamentary approval with even the proclamation subject to judicial review, will remain etched in the country's judicial history.

Such was the aura around him that even when he opined on matters not connected to the judiciary, the government had to follow his advice.

Who can forget the "Reinstatement of values of judicial life", a code of conduct for members of the higher judiciary, formulated at his instance and adopted by all apex courts in May 7, 1997?

By raising the pitch against misuse of muscle and money power during polls, he played a key role in highlighting the need to reform the electoral system.

The recent report of a panel he headed on changes required in laws for better security for women in India, if fully implemented, is certain to lay the foundation for a safer country for women. In his death, we have lost a true Indian.

Justice Mudgal is a former chief justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court

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