Even at a time when questions are being raised about the integrity of some of the judges of the superior courts, we still have men who have adorned the highest office in the Apex Court and are worthy of emulation.
I am talking about Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India, who also served as Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and Chairman of the Committee to Review the Working of the Constitution.
Justice Venkatachaliah has been a role model for judges and lawyers alike for his honesty, integrity and unfailing courtesy in court and outside and for his erudition.
I have had the pleasure to serve as a Member of the National Human Rights Commission when he was Chairman of the Commission. I would like to share a few incidents which show the sterling qualities of the Judge.
I had invited Justice Venkatachaliah to an Awards function in Delhi after he had retired and settled in Bangalore. We sent him an open return air ticket - Bangalore-Delhi-Bangalore. A week before our Awards function, he was appointed Chairman of the NHRC and he arrived in Delhi on an officially paid ticket.
When I called on him at the IIC where he was staying, he handed over the return ticket to me saying that the Government has paid for his travel from Bangalore and the ticket could be returned. Since it was an open ticket, a lesser mortal would have retained it and used it on some subsequent personal travel.
An organization with which I was associated gave him an award of Rs. 50,000 for his outstanding contribution in promoting and protecting human rights. He did not retain the award money and forthwith issued a cheque for Rs. 50,000 for a voluntary blood bank in Delhi.
Once he asked me if I knew any jeweller in Delhi. A friend's son-in-law was a known jeweller and I said if I could be of any assistance. Justice Venkatachaliah told me that his son was getting married in a few months and they wanted silver utensils (thalis, katoris, glasses) for the wedding. He told me that they had old dented silver utensils and other silver pieces which they would want to dispose of and pay the balance money for new utensils.
As we went to Dariba Kalan to the jewellers, Venkatachaliahs selected thalis, katoris and glasses after assessing the size and weight. They wanted eight thalis, eight glasses and 32 katoris. The jeweller's men, after assessing the value of old dented silver pieces, quoted an amount of Rs. 62,000 extra to be paid for the required utensils.
Both husband and wife were taken aback and after discussing for a few minutes in Kannada they asked the shop owner if he could make six thalis, six glasses and 18 katoris.
Here is a man, a former Chief Justice of India, who is happy and content with the little that he had earned and saved from the high offices that he held.
When I served as Governor, Uttarakhand, Kumaon University invited him to deliver the Convocation Address. I invited the family for a short vacation at Nainital as my guests. He and Mrs. Venkatachaliah arrived in Nainital by the University car from Delhi. I asked him where were his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. He told me that they were coming by an overnight bus. Justice Venkatachaliah declined an offer by the University for a second car to bring his son's family to Nainital.
When he assumed office as Chief Justice, he presided over a Bench which reviewed an order passed by an earlier Bench which had caused the entire Supreme Court Bar to raise their eyebrows. The earlier order was set aside on review and the party had to shell out several hundred crores as customs duty and penalty.
Men like Justice Venkatachaliah do the nation proud.
Courtesy : The Tribune