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Former Chief Justice of India P. N. Bhagwati passes away at 95

P. N. Bhagwati
P. N. Bhagwati
Former Chief Justice of India P N Bhagwati, who helped introduce public interest litigation in the country's judicial system and was considered as the father of human rights jurisprudence, passed away after a brief illness here this evening.
 
He was 95.
 
He is survived by his wife Prabhavati Bhagwati and three daughters - Parul Jayakar, Pallavi Shroff and Sonali Bhagwati. His funeral is slated to be held here on Saturday, sources said.
 
Born on December 21, 1921, Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati served as the 17th Chief Justice of India from July 12, 1985 to December 20, 1986, when he retired.
 
During a long and illustrious career, he came to be considered, along with Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, as one of the pioneers of judicial activism in India. He was also the propounder of the "polluter pays principle".
 
Justice Bhagwati's father Justice Natwarlal H. Bhagwati was a judge of the Supreme Court, while his brother Jagdish Bhagwati is a renowned economist.
 
Justice Bhagwati studied at Elphinstone College in Mumbai and took a degree in mathematics (Hons.) from Bombay University and later received a law degree from the same university after studying at Government Law College in Mumbai.
 
He began practising law in the Bombay High Court before he was appointed as a judge of the Gujarat High Court in July, 1960. He was appointed the Chief Justice of that court in September, 1967. In July 1973, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of India. 
 
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The Government honoured him with the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian honour, in 2007. He served as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee from 1995 to 2009 and also served as its chairman in 2001-03.
 
Justice Bhagwati attracted a lot of criticism when, in 1976, he was part of a five-judge bench which delivered a controversial judgement in the ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla case. The bench held that, during the Emergency of 1975-77, a person's right to not be unlawfull detained could be suspended, thus upholding the then Government's move to suspend fundamental rights, including the Right to Life. Later, in 2011, he agreed with the popular view that the judgement was "short-sighted" and apologised for it.
 
Two years after that judgement, Justice Bhagwati was again part of a five-judge bench which delivered a landmark verdict in the Maneka  Gandhi case, which held that the Right to Life meant the Right to Live with Dignity and not just lead a mere animal existence.
 
He was against the death sentence and held in a dissenting verdict in the Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab case, that capital punishment was discriminatory and violation of Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution, as it was invariably against weaker and marginalised sections of society. He felt that such cases should be heard by five-judge benches of the apex court and the death penalty should be awarded only when all the five judges agreed.
 
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