Vijay Tendulkar, the renowned
playwright and author, described a true story in his article for a Diwali
number of a reputed Marathi magazine. He was stunned when he discovered that a
teacher, critically ill, called his student, a girl several years younger than
him, and sought her pardon. The teacher’s offense? He had secretly desired her
which was in breach of his role as her teacher. She was not at all aware of it,
but teacher was very repentant and said that unless she pardoned him he would
not die peacefully.
Tendulkar, in his inimitable
style, explored the world of temptations and penitence.
I remembered the story as I read
the so-called apology of ex-Chief Justice PN Bhagwati. There should be
no doubt in anybody’s mind that Mr. Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati was one
of the most outstanding and brilliant judges of the Supreme Court. He concurred
with M/s Beg, Chandrachud and Ray in ADM Jabalpur case to declare that The
Government could suspend all fundamental rights during Emergency.
Here is an excerpt from Fali
Nariman’s book ‘Before Memory Fades’ which tells what it meant :
During the hearing of ADM
Jabalpur in the Supreme Court, the then attorney General of India was
specifically asked by Justice HR Khanna – one of the judges on the bench –
whether there would be any remedy if a police officer, because of personal
enmity and for reasons which had nothing to do with the state, too into
detention a law-abiding citizen and even put an end to his life. The answer of
the attorney general was unequivocal....”It may shock you conscience, it shocks
mine, but consistently with my submissions no proceedings can be taken in a
Court of Law on that score during Emergency.” [Justice HR Khanna was the only
judge who delivered a dissenting judgement, and was punished by Indira Gandhi
when he was superseded by a junior judge. His portrait hangs in Supreme Court’s
Court room 2.]
Ex Chief Justice Mr PN Bhagwati [now approaching 90] has recently
said, “I was wrong. The majority
judgment was not the correct judgment. If it was open to me to come to a fresh
decision in that case, I would agree with what Justice Khanna did. I am sorry.
I don’t know why I yielded to my colleagues. Initially, I was not in favour of
the majority view. But ultimately, I don’t know why, I was persuaded to agree
with them. I was a novice at that time, a young judge…I was handling this type
of litigation for the first time. But it was an act of weakness on my part.”
Chandrachud too had declared that
it was a wrong judgement, but several years later. Popular view is that the
judges were lured by the possibility of becoming Chief Justices of Supreme
There is a vital difference
between the old teacher in Tendulkar’s story who confesses and redefines
‘offence,’ and PN Bhagwati. The teacher was uncomfortable with having wrong
emotions and desires about his lady student. He had a remorse filled heart. And
we have Bhagwati who not only fell prey to temptations, but going by his own
admission, to influence of his brother judges, and he defends it by saying ‘I
was a novice at that time, a young judge.’
No remorse here, no penitent
This is a case of dishonest
apology! It is a case of corrupt mind!! A brilliant mind, but corrupt one.
Bhagwati, who is considered as the ‘Father of Public Interest Litigation’ a
concept which has delivered justice to several Indians, and whose judgements in
many cases were trend setters, unfortunately showed petty weaknesses.
Not just then but even today in
his apology too.