Justice P N Bhagwati
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As the judge of the Supreme Court
Dhananjay Mahapatra, June 16, 2017: The Times of India
Justice Bhagwati was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in 1973 and became the 17th CJI in 1985.
He 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. For his pioneering work in devising this great concept, akin to class action suit in the US and many other landmark decisions, the government had conferred Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award, on him in 2007.
Early in his career as a judge of the SC, he was part of the five-judge bench which in 1976 delivered the infamous ADM Jabalpur judgement that upheld the government decision to suspend fundamental rights, including the Right to Life, during Emergency , which remained in force in India from 1975 to 1977.
Justice H R Khanna was the only judge among the fi ve who gave the dis senting judgement holding that the Right to Life is a core fundamental right which could never be suspended by any government even during Emergency .
Interestingly , Justice Bhagwati was also part of the five-judge bench which delivered a landmark judgement expanding the width of Right to Life in Maneka Gandhi case just two years after the ADM Jabalpur case.
In Maneka Gandhi case, the SC had ruled that Right to Life is no mere animal existence but it meant Right to Live with Dignity .