It Could Happen to You
We need more Justice Lodhas
Former CJI is the brain behind the historic IPL verdict as well as those granting justice to acid attack victims and undertrials.
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"Which cases do you remember the most?" I had asked Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha in September 2014, exactly a week before his term as the 41st Chief Justice of India came to a close.
He had mentioned three cases: raising compensation for acid attack victims, releasing thousands of undertrials languishing in jails and bringing justice to foreign prisoners. If asked today, perhaps, he will include the IPL verdict, for providing a blueprint on the way cricket ought to be in this country.
"Restoring liberty and protecting rights of people, flowing from Article 21 of the Constitution, give me maximum satisfaction," he had said. And two thumb-rules he follows, he had added, are: always keeping in mind that "nobody is absolutely wrong or absolutely right" and that "you can't practice something because it suits you today and then discard it tomorrow because it doesn't suit you anymore".
It was a loss to the Supreme Court when Justice Lodha retired after his five-month term as the CJI. He was known for his grip over the law, his courtroom strategy, his sense of humour and his fearlessness. Remember, how he had called the CBI a "caged parrot," asked former Attorney General of India Goolam Vahanvati not to complain because the judiciary was challenging government policy or pointed a stern finger at the Centre for its role over the appointment of Gopal Subramanium as a Supreme Court judge? "God could have made me an engineer, a cobbler, a dacoit. But God thought, here is a person who I can trust to discharge my duty of delivering justice," he had said.
India needs many more Justice Lodhas, to turn this county around. And although, I remember, that he was looking forward to being "free" after 21 years of leading a secluded life of protocols ("I don't know if I even remember how to socialise anymore," he had rued). At the end of the day, cases like the IPL can help him fulfil his purpose in life. "To serve people," that is what he had said that day.