Justice Jasti Chelameswar
Author : Rhishika Srivastava, GLS, Ahmedabad.
Justice JastiChelameshwar was one of the most famous and notable Judges of the Honorable Supreme Court of India. We use the term “was” here because he retired from the office on 22nd June 2018. He has been surrounded with many controversial attributes and decisions throughout his tenure, which the Article shall take into account at subsequent points.
Life and Career
Justice Chelameswar was born on 23rd June 1953, in Peddamuttevi village of MovvaMandal, which comes in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, He is the son of JastiLakshminarayana, a lawyer who practised at the district court, andAnnapoornamma, who was a homemaker. He completed his schooling from Machillipatnam and then enrolled himself in Loyolla College, Chennai. He obtained his Bsc. (Physics) degree from there and then in 1976, he took admission for 3 years LLB in Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam.
After completion of the degree, Justice Chelameswar was qualified to be a government pleader from 1980-197. Subsequently, in 1997, he was appointed as an Additional Judge of High Court of Andhra Pradesh.
Thereafter, in 2007 he was elevated to become the Chief Justice of Guwahati High Court. After serving for 2 years 10 months i.e. (2nd May 2007 to 17th March 2010) he was made the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court from 17th March 2010 to 9th October 2011. From Kerala High Court, he was elevated as the Supreme Court Judge, and was appointed by the then President Smt. PratibhaPatil from 10th October 2011 to 22nd June 2018.
His journey witnessed almost every legal profession, from being a pleader to chief justice of High Courts to being a Supreme Court Judge. However he missed being the CJI because of a late entry of an year compared to Honorable CJI DipakMisra, inspite of having same age.
- In the Landmark Case of ShreyaSinghal vs. Union of India, Justice Chelameswar along with Justice F Nariman gave the verdict which struck down a controversial law which gave Indian police the power to arrest anyone accused of posting emails or other electronic messages which “causes annoyance or inconvenience”. The judges held Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which made such offenses punishable up to three years imprisonment, to be unconstitutional.
- A three judge benchof the Supreme Court, havingJustice Chelameswar, SharadArvindBobde, and ChokkalingamNagappan, ratified an earlier order of the Apex Court and clarified that no Indian citizen without an Aadhaar card can be deprived of basic services and government subsidies.
- Justice Chelameswar was the only Judge who held a dissenting opinion in the NJAC verdict and supported the same. He held that the Collegium system of appointing judges is much biased and faces nepotism. It suffers from innumerable loopholes and termed the undergoing as “a euphemism for nepotism”.
The Master of Roster Controversy:
The most recent and one of the biggest controversies that Justice Chelameswar was a part of was the issue of case allocation by the Chief Justice of India, DipakMisra. Justice Chelameswar along with three other judges held a press conference claiming non-transparency and arbitrary allocation of cases by the CJI. The major concern was that the Senior most judges of the Apex Court were not being allotted to hear matters of grave importance and were rather confined to petty issues.
However the controversy seemingly became latent after the amended allocation criteria by the CJI. Furthermore Justice Chelameswar even refused to be the Farewell Party being organized by the Court to bid him goodbye.
Opinionated Sum up
Justice Chelameswar, as it seem to be was a man of great courage and dissenting views. He also passed several obiters on politicians and judiciary for their respective workings. He was very clear with his freedom of speech and expression and exercised the same with utmost diligence and fullness.
In one phrase he was a man of courage and transparency as I think.
AIR 2015 SC 1523
“India supreme court strikes down internet censorship law”. The Guardian. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 3rd July 2018.
“Supreme Court upholds free speech on internet, scraps ‘unconstitutional’ Section 66A of IT Act”. Hindustan Times. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 3rd July 2018.
“The judge who dissented: ‘No accountability, mediocrity or even less promoted, reform overdue'”. The Indian Express. 2015-10-17. Retrieved 3rd July 2018.
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Legal Solution and Indian Legal Solution does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same].