Indira Jaising

| @IJaising | January 24,2019

IT is impossible in these few words to capture the work of the lifetime of Justice Madan B Lokur who retired from the office of the judge, Supreme Court of India on December 30, 2018. Our judges retire very young, and in my opinion, the true test of a great judge is to be found in judges’ post retirement work. Justice V R Krishna Iyer comes to my mind, whose 100th birth anniversary I attended when he was felicitated by the High Court of Kerala. On the following day, I saw a photograph in the newspaper — of Justice Iyer visiting a prisoner who was an invalid, who died on that day. I have no doubt in my mind, that Justice Lokur’s post retirement work will be as significant, if not more, as his judicial output.

 

Indira Jaising giving opening address at the Constitution Club of India, welcoming Justice Lokur (Retd.) | Photo credit: The Leaflet

 

Recently, Justice Lokur was invited to the swearing-in ceremony of the newly appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Asif Saeed Khan Khosa. Justice Lokur was bestowed with an honour of sitting on the bench with Chief Justice Asif Saeed.

But to be a peoples’ judge, what you need is to connect with civil society, on the bench and off the bench, throughout your career. Justice Lokur certainly had that connect. He brought in the entire NGO movement to the court room and gave them space in the heart of a judicial system. They filed reports on juvenile justice, acid attacks, shelter homes, on the rights of widows, a reporting mechanism for child pornography and much more. Such a judge could hardly retire. December 30, 2018 is not a full stop in his career but it is a new beginning.

Rather than talk about his several judgments which deal with issues such as impact of rampant mining on the environment, gender justice, I prefer to focus on his role as a great administrator. He monitored every substantive order, by demanding meticulous compliance reports of the order from states governments which periodically filed compliance reports, and often faced consequences of non-compliance, it is this last quality of his, this last mile delivery of justice that stands out, though little written about.

His amazing role in setting up statutory legal aid committees in Union Territory Delhi which he categorised for the purpose of legal aid as State is also remarkable. He insisted Delhi was a State with several districts and hence, every district needed a District Legal Aid Committee and State needed a State Legal Aid Committee. Often, he would handpick directors and officers on special duty for the legal services committee, known for their commitment to constitutional values who carried the mission of legal aid further.

While in the High Court of Delhi, he cleared the backlog of pending cases proving through his work, the issue is not increasing the number of judges, but intelligent and scientific case management of judicial work.

When he was Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court, he visited every single state in the North-East, using to the fullest extent the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court over the entire region.

I am aware that this audience is keen to know his views on the recent supersession of several senior judges in the country including Chief Justices of several High Courts in the country. I am also aware he played a critical role as a former member of the Supreme Court Collegium.

The Leaflet and Lawyers Collective would like to make it tradition to invite retire Supreme Court judges for public interaction; so to say to call them to account. There is a limit for which we can call Justice Lokur to account for his judicial work. However, we look forward to hearing him as a former insider to the Collegium on the mysteries functioning of an institution which appears to be far from collegiate.

I conclude by presenting to you a conversation with senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai and Justice Madan B Lokur, the people’s judge.

Also read: Justice Madan B Lokur in conversation with Rajdeep Sardesai at The Leaflet‘s ‘Sate of the Indian Judiciary’ programme on January 23, 2019

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