Justice P N Bhagwati (1921-2017) was an expert in the field of law. A brilliant student of Mumbai's Elphinstone College, young Bhagwati courted arrest during the freedom movement in 1942 and went underground for four months.
A law graduate from the prestigious Government Law College, Mumbai, Bhagwati began his illustrious career, practicing law at the Bombay High Court. He became a judge of the Gujarat High Court in 1967 and later became its Chief Justice. He was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in July 1973. He became the 17th Chief Justice of India, who held the highest judicial post from July 1985 to December 1986.
On two occasions, Justice Bhagwati officiated as the acting Governor of Gujarat.
Justice Bhagwati was the architect of a new concept-- Public Interest Litigation (PIL) - for dispensing justice to the voiceless poor on whose behalf a third person could approach the Supreme Court or High Courts.
Justice Bhagwati was also a member of the five-judge bench which delivered a landmark judgment expanding the scope of Right to Life in the Maneka Gandhi case in 1978. The Supreme Court had ruled that the expression ''life'' did not mean mere animal existence, but right to life with dignity.
Justice Bhagwati had been a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee from 1995 to 2009, being reelected after every two years on expiry of his term. He was also chairman of the committee in 2001-03. He had served as a member of the Committee of Experts of the International Labour Organisation for a long period.
Justice Bhagwati was also the Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
For his pioneering work in the field of law, Government of India had conferred Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour, on him in 2007.
Justice Bhagwati had been the Chairperson of the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation since its inception in 1995. He had been a source of inspiration to the members of the Foundation and its volunteers who work for the empowerment of women and the underprivileged classes of the society. His sad demise on June 15, 2017 is an irreparable loss to the Foundation and its volunteers.
The Trustees, volunteers and well wishers of the Foundation express their deep condolences on his sad demise. May his soul rest in peace.
Justice Leila Seth (1930-2017) was a great lawyer who had many first's in her life and career. The first woman to top the London Bar examination in 1958, Leila later became the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court in 1978 and the first woman to become the Chief Justice of a High Court in 1991.
When Leila topped the Bar examination in England, a British newspaper referred to her as "Mother-in-Law" and carried a photograph of young Leila Seth with her infant son. People wondered how out of 580 students who took the Bar Exam, a married woman topped the list. Justice Seth was a part of various enquiry commissions, one of which studied the impact of the popular television serial, Shaktiman, on children. The serial was at the centre of a controversy because many children set themselves on fire or threw themselves off buildings hoping that Shaktiman, their super hero, would come and rescue them.
Justice Seth was also part of an enquiry into the death of businessman Rajan Pillai, known as the "Biscuit Baron", who died in police custody. She was also a member of the Law Commission of India until 2000. She was responsible for the amendments to the Hindu Succession Act which gave equal rights to daughters in joint family property. She was a member of the judicial committee headed by J. S. Verma, a former Judge of Supreme Court, to suggest amendments to criminal law to sternly deal with sexual assault cases following the Nirbhaya case. The committee identified "failure of governance" as the root cause for sexual crime and recommended dramatic changes.
Her autobiography On Balance gives an authentic account of her life. Her book, We, The Children of India, explains the Preamble to the Constitution to younger readers. In Talking of Justice: People's Rights in Modern India, she discusses several critical issues she has dealt with in her long legal career.
Justice Seth, a close friend of Justice Sunanda Bhandare, had been a Trustee of the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation since its inception in 1995. With a deep commitment to women's issues, she had been a source of inspiration to the members of the Foundation and its volunteers who work for the empowerment of women and the underprivileged classes of the society. Her sad demise on May 5, 2017 is an irreparable loss to the Foundation and its volunteers.
The Trustees, volunteers and well wishers of the Foundation express their deep condolences on her sad demise. May her soul rest in peace.