Did an SC judgement lead Indira Gandhi to declare emergency in 1975? And, how does a separate judgment on muncipalities, given years back, have relevance in the entire controversy around AAP government’s handling of mosquito borne diseases outbreak in Delhi? You would have found interesting perspectives to these questions and many more interesting facts & anecdotes if you were present at the V R Krisham memorial lecture series held in New Delhi this week. Noted lawyer Fali S Nariman had interesting facts & anecdotes to share, ones that will interest everyone, not just lawyers & jurists.
The event was organised in honour of late justice V R Krishna Iyer. Mr. Fali S Nariman, Senior Advocate, referred to him as the ”People’s Chief Justice of India,” cited many landmark judgments in this context, quoted Lord Denning’s writings and quipped that he had once “pulled Justice VR Krishna Iyer’s” leg in a private conversation stating, “It is not Mrs Gandhi who is responsible for declaration of Emergency in 1975, it is you who brought Emergency.”
Fali S Nariman was referring to the conditional stay by Justice VR Krishna Iyer on the Allahabad High Court’s verdict which barred Mrs Indira Gandhi from participating in debates or voting in Parliament as an MP, following which Opposition demanded that Indira Gandhi should step down, all of which snowballed towards events that finally culminated in the declaration of Emergency across the country.
“If ever innovative judgments are permitted to be patented, Lord Denning in England and Krishna Iyer in India would be the judges holding the largest number of such patents,” Fali S Nariman stated.”
Not sparing the Delhi government’s tackling of the dengue epidemic that had affected Delhiites, Fali S Nariman referred extensively to quoting Justice VR Krishna Iyer’s landmark judgment in Ratlam Municipality case.
One of the legal pleas to absolve the municipality from the Magistrate’s specific direction under Sec 133 was that the municipality had no funds to comply with the directions.
Justice VR Krishna Iyer negated this plea in these words, “The Criminal Procedure Code operates against statutory bodies and others regardless of the cash in their coffers, even as human rights under Part 3 of Constitution have to be respected by the State regardless of budgetary provision. Likewise Section 133 of the Act have no saving clause when the municipal council is penniless. Otherwise, a profligate statutory body or pachydermic governmental agency may legally defy duties under the law by urging self-defence a self- created bankruptcy or perverted expenditure budget. That cannot be.”
Justice VR Krishna Iyer’s court allowed the Municipality to frame a scheme commensurate with the costs involved which the municipality could well-afford with the help of loans from the state government, then approved and monitored for the future. This was on the principle set out in Article 47 of the Constitution – a directive principle of State policy – viz. that the improvement of public health is amongst the primary duties of the State.”
Justice VR Krishna Iyer’s decision in the case of the Ratlam Municipality case witnessed the beginning of two things:
1. Public interest litigation when the executive or its agencies fail to perform their executive duties.
2. A new litigative strategy that is increasingly practiced today – negotiating with parties whilst at the same time judging their cases.
“For Justice Krishna Iyer, a wrong was a wrong was a wrong, it had to be exposed,” Fali S Nariman said.